A night, a boy, a dad, a friend and a wide open sky

Well, I've been super busy of late. I have two observing entries to get down here on the blog and a few other things to enter in.  I am almost ready to post my last two observing sessions and a few other items, yet I find myself doing something that was wonderful tonight. This evening I had the tremendous opportunity to go over to a friend's house and with his 10 year old son, teach them how to use my 10" Orion Telescope.

Yeah, I loaned my friend my 10" just over a year ago and finally his schedule and mine matched so we could do a session together.  With us in his backyard was his 10 year old son.  I went over tonight wondering if this was really going to work as the clouds flew in tonight and we did not know how much we would get in.  I also know from experience to never count out the sky. Sure enough as the evening went on, the clouds disipated and we had mostly clear skies (90% clear).  We began by having him assemble the telescope and load the finderscope and the Telrad on the tube. I taught my friend and his son how to collimate (in over a year, the scope was still in perfect collimation) the scope and then to align the Telrad, finderscope and eyepiece on a bright star (we used Arcturus).  We practiced aligning a few times and then off we went.  Our first target of the night was Mizar in Ursa Major. It was fun to have them get on the star, look through the finderscope and then the eyepiece and see the true double stars there.  As my friend said, that object will remain one of his favorites because it was the first one he found and observed with no help.

My friend's son now took over and he moved the scope and nailed Saturn in the eyepiece. Seeing was not so great tonight but there was enough there that after we had looked, my friend's son (we'll call him Aaron) stayed looking at it for some time. Aaron then moved down to Mars and both father and son enjoyed observing the Red Planet for awhile.

I now introduced to them the Pocket Sky Atlas and we went to look at Hercules. There my friend saw where M13 was and we went there. M13 looked okay in the Orion XT10 with a 11mm Explore Scientific eyepiece.  They enjoyed seeing in and then learning about Globular Clusters.

By now Sagitarrius was in a position we could observe. Back to the Pocket Sky Atlas and I showed my friend how to look up both Messier objects and constellations in the back (large edition).  At Sagitarrius he found M22 in the atlas and figured out his star hop to it from Kaus B. He nailed the short hop and then tried for M28. That was harder for him and he overshot it several times. I then put the eyepiece on M28 and had him reverse engineer the star hop from Kaus B. That helped him to figure out what he was doing wrong moving the scope.

Next we went over to M8, then did an actual star hop up to M17 and then to M16 and he did quite well with those.  I gave them a break at this point and showed them Alberio, M57, M27 and the Double Double.  Now my friend and Aaron took the scope back and using the Pocket Sky Atlas they hopped to M31, easily finding it a couple of times. Next came the Double Cluster in Perseus and then I sat back and let them do the work and the observing well I just looked up into the night sky.

We had wonderful conversations well learning and doing this night. We talked of Supernova, the creation of nebula and the differences between globular and open clusters. We talked of the distance of M31 and Aaron shared how it will merge in 5 to 6 billion years with us and form the Milkodrama galaxy.  I left this night having had a most enjoyable evening.

This for me is outreach. It is scaffolding newbies into the hobby so that they learn by doing the hobby, not just me showing off objects and talking about them.  Tonight, I know of two people, a father and his 10 year old son who are going to be using my Orion XT10 and the eypeieces and equipment I loaned them to observe.  They are going to star hop, and face the up and downs that go with learning how to do that, and they will have the thrill and excitement of finding objects all on their own. They are hooked and can now observe from their backyard and be somewhat successful. Why? Because an experience observer was with them to scaffold them, support them ,answer questions, show if needed and then let them do.   That is the key I feel needs to be done if we are serioius about growing the hobby.  My hope for my friend and his 10 year old son is that they have many wonderful nights sharing experiences at the scope as they explore the sky above them.  What a wonderful night, and how I love working with individuals or a couple of people to help them learn about using equipment to do in this hobby.  Outreach in my mind should be replaced with Connect and Grow. If you connect with newbies, if you support them where they are at, they will grow, you will grow and in the end, we are all better off.  What a wonderful evening.