Wednesday nights have taken on a whole new meaning at Northcote HS with regular observing sessions. One of the school’s parents is also a keen astronomer and he has brought along not one, but two of his own telescopes. One is a fully computerised 8” Celestron SCT and the other is a 10” Dobsonian telescope that he has made himself and folds up into these neat boxes for storage, also home-made. Much kudos!
So with two or three telescopes at the school, the word quickly got around that there was some cool stuff going on and the size of the evenings has grown exponentially! On the second last week, @AstroKatie went out for some great viewing on a relatively warm night and perfectly clear skies. The list of objects they observed was endless, including the star, Zubenelschamali (yes that is a real name). Why Zebenelschamali, other than so I can say the name again, it is supposed to be the only green star that actually looks green. ? you say. In actual fact, our Sun is a green star, but because the light from a star covers the whole visible spectrum, the colour being defined by which wavelength has the greatest intensity, it actually looks white. Of course if the greatest intensity is green, you have red and blue light making a contribution to the overall light from the star and the final result is white light. As for what we saw, the jury was out and maybe we need to try imaging the star to see it’s true colour.
The next week, I headed out because @AstroKatie was rubbing shoulders with Astrophysicists at Caltech and JPL getting private tours of the actual Mars yard and playing in the control room. Jealous much? Yes, me too. But then she missed out on over 60!! people turning up to the observing night during the last week of term. It was a good thing we had three telescopes or the queue would have been heading out of the school. What a sensational turnout on what I thought was the coldest night of the year so far. We were hoping to hook up Miss Pohl’s dad’s new camera to take some images, but the temperature took a further drop and the dew set in, so something to look forward to next term!
Every year the Astrophysics group hosts a group of 12 year 10 students to do work experience in Astrophysics at The University of Melbourne. This is a week of practicals, talks from astronomers, research and culminates in the work experience students giving a talk on a topic in Astronomy to the Astrophysics Group. This year we also had an observing night on the Wednesday. The skies were clear, the night not too cold and all the parents were also invited to come along. With over 30 people, another big night of observing. Cat, who organized the week, Craig, Steph and Daniel also helped out. They were sensational setting up the telescope while I explained the telescope to everyone and pointed out some features in the sky. We looked at Saturn, Clusters, Alpha Centauri and Zubenelschamali before calling it a night. The parents were just as enthralled as the students and were very appreciative that they were involved in the program.
Brad headed out to Footscray City College on the last Tuesday and they also looked at a range of objects with a very nice turnout of observers.
Suzanne Cory hosted their own night also on the Tuesday (that meant three schools on the one night!) as they become ever more proficient on the telescope.
Lastly, on the Thursday night, I held the first training session for our new and tenth school, Glenroy College in Glenroy. A great turnout of 5 staff, we went through the process of aligning the telescope, looking at Saturn through a range of objectives and identifying various celestial features. We are very excited to have Glenroy College join the program and we look forward to meeting the students and discovering the night sky in August.