Last week ended as only it could in Melbourne. A beautiful clear night on Wednesday followed by an extremely overcast night on Thursday.
Wednesday saw Telescopes in Schools at a new school, Footscray City College in Melbourne’s North. This was our first night at Footscray City and only the teachers were there for the training session on how to use the telescope. Our VCA photography student, Xanthe, also came along to learn how to use the telescope and take some images.
As the telescope had only just been unpacked, the finderscope was unaligned, the focus was way out and the GPS had to set itself. There was a lot to learn, but lead by Adam, the eight eager teachers had no qualms in getting their hands dirty and exploring how this telescope works. After going through the alignment of the telescope and the finderscope we went straight to Saturn where we explored each of the objective lenses and the focal reducer. The staff got a great feel of just how up close we can get to the planets in our Solar System.
While the weather was perfect, the moon was almost full and pretty much drowned out the entire Scorpius constellation. But don’t think that deterred us in any way. After spending at least half an hour on the moon (the telescope tracking beautifully) exploring again various lenses and the lunar filter, we looked at some deep sky objects.
We had an excellent alignment, so finding these objects wasn’t too difficult, but if you have never seen them before, it can be hard knowing what you are looking at. But that didn’t hold the staff at Footscray City back and before we knew it that had the C80 Globular Cluster and the C94 Jewel Box Open Cluster centred in the field of view and in focus. At this point I was feeling quite obsolete as I have only touched the telescope a handful of times for the entire night. Keen to see yet more, but the cold winning out, we quickly went to Alpha Centauri to resolve the Binary Star System. A quick pack up and back in the welcome warmth. A great night was had by all, the staff picked up the nuances of the telescope brilliantly and we look forward to meeting the students from the Science Club. Thank you to Xanthe Waite for taking these images.
Thursday, we were back at Suzanne Cory and it is always a pleasure to talk to these students. At sunset, we were watching those clouds with bated breath as they started to break up just a little around the exact spot Saturn was, but at this time, there was still way too much light still coming from the setting sun and half an hour later, the cloud had completely covered the sky! Not to be outdone though, especially with a huge turnout of Year 10 students, we took the students through the alignment process, gave them a look down the end of the telescope and then we focussed on some street lights on the other side of a rather large paddock. We then headed inside for an activity, a talk and some short movies on the Solar System and the science of Astronomy. The students also got some interesting stories and knowledge from Astrophysics PhD student, Vikram, which I think they all enjoyed.