Autumnal Melbourne

If you can remember back to last year, autumn for Melbourne was dismal, we hardly had any clear nights and usually we can expect the calmer weather at this time of year. Hoping I don’t speak too soon, but the last few weeks have seen the weather return to what we have come to expect. With 11 schools now in full swing on the program, it has been pretty much observing every night of the week! And we have had plenty to look at as well. Three planets – Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. It is the first time for most of the schools seeing Jupiter and its moons as Jupiter had usually set by the time we started observing, so it has been a real treat. The Orion Nebula has also been a treat, again the first time for most of the schools. The Moon has also been putting on a display for us. There was the Lunar Eclipse over the term break, the Solar Eclipse we missed out on because of rain (okay so it has rained a little, we wouldn’t be in Melbourne if it didn’t), then the Saturn/Moon Occulation and just before full moon, the moonrise was a spectacular red just on the horizon in Werribee.

We have also been getting huge groups attending the sessions – the clear skies are dragging people out or perhaps the word is getting round. We also hit our 150th observing session last Monday which is a great achievement and at this rate we will get to 200 this year without any problem!

We have had a number of visitors to our sessions. Jess from the VCA is doing a documentary on an astro-busker that sets up in the Melbourne CBD and shows people Saturn through his telescope for a small donation. She wanted to get some footage of Saturn through the telescope and we just had to oblige. Jess and her director of photography came along for the evening and got heaps of footage on the Canon EOS 700D.

I’ve just ingested the footage we got last night. 
It’s great! I love how little and precious it looks.
                                                                                              Jess Hutchison (VCA student)

When the film is finished, she is going to come back out to Footscray City College and present the film to us and talk to the media students. We can’t wait to see the finished product!

The crowd at Footscray City College.

The crowd at Footscray City College.

Suzanne Cory High School invited some leaders in STEM education in the area. I had some fantastic conversations in between taking photos of the Moon. It never ceases to amaze me how teachers can be so dedicated to making sure every child has an opportunity to get a great education and have inspiring experiences. I look forward to continuing these conversations in the future.

Teacher John Trajanovski aligning the telescope at Suzanne Cory HS on their first night for the year.

Teacher John Trajanovski aligning the telescope at Suzanne Cory HS on their first night for the year.

We have also been getting into the photography again. Louise from Pascoe Vale Girls College took this spectacular image of the Moon while I turned my back for a minute.

Waxing Gibbous Moon taken with Canon EOS 700D attached to 12" SCT. Credit: Louise Ankers

Waxing Gibbous Moon taken with Canon EOS 700D attached to 12″ SCT. Credit: Louise Ankers

The telescope also has a new room all to itself, it was looking very comfy and had a view into the new Physics lab.

Pascoe Vale Girls College telescope tucked up in bed for the night.

Pascoe Vale Girls College telescope tucked up in bed for the night.

It was the first telescope viewing night of the year and it was a success! Even though we, the Rephract members, were a little rusty in using the telescope it was great to see some new faces coming along to join us.  We managed to look at Procyon, Spica, Jupiter with its lovely horizontal bands and its moons and of course the lovely Moon itself. With some new faces coming to join us as well as the old  it was great to see the night bustling with so many people intrigued with what to experience with the Rephract group as well as using the telescope. Tuesday nights shall be my favourite evenings of the week now that the telescope is back! It saddens us that this may be the last year of having the telescope, maybe we could ask for an extension to keep the telescope?

Saumaya Fernando 11F Pascoe Vale Girls College

Dale raced home from a great night at Gisborne Secondary College to hook up the cameras to his own telescope during the occultation of Saturn with the Moon.

Occultation of Saturn and Moon, May 14, 2014 taken with Canon EOS 700D connected to telescope. Credit: Dale Barry

Occultation of Saturn and Moon, May 14, 2014 taken with Canon EOS 700D connected to telescope. Credit: Dale Barry

Saturn and Moon Occultation taken with Thorlabs CMOS camera mounted on telescope. Credit: Dale Barry

Saturn and Moon Occultation taken with Thorlabs CMOS camera mounted on telescope. Credit: Dale Barry

Amazing images already this year and I am sure there will be plenty more to come. Stay tuned we have more schools to talk about in Part II coming soon…

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