The seeing and the starry sky were exquisite Saturday night for our September Open Night. The sky over the village was cloudless and sparkling with diamond stars. The Milky Way stretched broad and bright overhead, arcing half-way across the sky, dust lanes evident. It was the finest sky I've seen in quite some time. All told 49 visitors came, stretched out over the two hours of the event — much better than 49 all showing up at once, which has often happened! The smaller crowds at any given time allowed for better interaction with visitors and gave them the sense that they could take their time looking through the telescope. Several College students were in attendance including a young man from Mexico City. Students rarely show up at these events so it was a pleasure to have them. Three students arrived at the scheduled 11:00 closing time and I spent a half-hour with them… they were excited and enthusiastic about the entire experience. Earlier in the evening a girl, maybe eight years old, was obviously enthralled with her views of Jupiter and the Galilean Moons; she even used a chart I provided at the eyepiece to put names to the star-like dots aside the huge planet. It is extremely gratifying when someone, most especially a child, really "gets" what they are seeing when looking through a great telescope. That young lady wasn't just looking at Jupiter, she was observing! Also featured was the Andromeda Galaxy which filled the field of view with its misty wonder – the light of a trillion stars 2.5 million light-years away! Jupiter was resplendent with not only the dark, broad equatorial cloud bands visible, but other "stripes" could be seen in the temperate zones. I must say, between the excellent seeing and improved tracking of the telescope, I enjoyed the best views I've ever had of those two objects, both at 122X. The telescope's right ascension clutch has been slipping badly. By hand-tightening the clutch I found that the telescope tracked as well as some modern electrically-driven scopes making higher-magnification public views practical and enjoyable. Observing Jupiter was, by the way, greatly aided through use of a neutral density filter — it was difficult to observe without the filter as Jupiter was so very brilliant! It was an excellent night.
Sounds like a wonderful night. Wish the observatory wasn't so far from us!So cool about the little girl. A future Astronomer perhaps? You never know when you plant seeds of knowlege and excitement.
A couple of weeks ago we sat out on our deck observing Jupiter through binoculars – it was really lovely. I'm glad your evening went so well and yes it is wonderful when children "get" what they are looking at.
I get the same feeling when I see children at art museums – when you can tell they're off on their own, even when holding a parent's hand.
Look at these photos I ran across! http://www.flickr.com/photos/royalobservatory/