It was going to be a very busy week for us volunteers who support the public outreach programs of Ladd Observatory and Seagrave Observatory.
Despite cloud cover during Ladd’s Halloween Celebration on Monday, October 31, hundreds of guests visited the facilities for what has become an annual tradition. Alex Bergemann and I stationed ourselves in the observatory dome and subsequently scared the Tootsie Rolls out of many a visitor’s Halloween bag. It was another successful Ladd-oween as Jim Hendrickson calls it.
On Wednesday night, November 2, a scheduled star party for the Rhode Island Audubon Society had to be cancelled due to a lack of pre-registrations. That was quite unfortunate, as the skies remained clear that evening.
Several scout groups were supposed to attend a program on Thursday night, November 3, to earn their merit badges and belt loops, but the weather forecast forced us to cancel and postpone. As can happen, the forecast was in error, and the skies were clear during the time they were scheduled to be at Seagrave. Sometimes we just can’t win!
Friday night, November 4, was our monthly meeting. Our speaker, Dr. Timothy Barker from Wheaton College Observatory, gave a great presentation, and afterwards we observed Jupiter and the Moon through the Clark with him. Tim was very impressed with the restoration work. He was equally impressed with the view through the scope. We shut the scope down around 10:30 pm.
Saturday, November 5, from 3-5 pm, Skyscrapers President Tom Thibault held an executive board meeting. Around 6:30 pm the scouts from Thursday nights postponed program began to arrive. Bob Forgiel had them initially use the binoculars that he routinely brings to this kind of event. Then he led them into the meeting hall where he conducted a program appropriate for the scouts to earn their badges and loops. After an hour or so indoors they spilled out into the moonlit grounds and set off in groups to visit the 12-inch Meade and the 8-inch Clark.
While Bob was handling the arriving scouts, I had opened up the Clark. Conrad arrived and opened up the 12-inch Meade. Jim Hendrickson, who had accompanied me for dinner after the Executive Board Meeting, set up one of his refractors out back. Robert Bazinet and his daughter Madison also arrived early. Madison, our second youngest member, has been learning the ins and outs of operating the Clark dome and scope with the help of Alex, our youngest member, as her guide. Alex hadn’t arrived yet, so I put Madison on the spot and asked her to direct us on how to prepare the dome and scope for observing. She helped us go through the opening checklist. Then I asked if she wanted to find Jupiter using the Clark.
Madison was very nervous about that prospect and was very hesitant to accept my offer. I coaxed her through some of the initial steps, but still let her locate Jupiter on her own. It takes some practice to know how much force to apply to the scope to manually move it across the sky. However, she soon got the hang of it and successfully located Jupiter.
Throughout the night she rotated the dome when necessary, and also kept the weight system cranked up to run the clock drive. Later on she successfully maneuvered the Clark to observe the Moon. Also, she has heard the Seagrave/Clark/Skyscrapers brief history on several occasions, so she actually answered a few questions that visitors had that evening when I was already engaged talking to another individual.
Soon after we had begun observing Jupiter Alex arrived. A woman and her son came into the dome and said they had a telescope which they had trouble using. I asked Alex if he would help them. They went outside and Alex not only spent time helping them understand how to set the scope up, but he also helped them locate Jupiter and the Moon.
Before that woman left for the evening she came back into the dome and thanked me for Alex’s help. Way to go Alex!!
Despite having her own telescope set up on the grounds, Madison and Alex spent most of the night up with me and our guests in the dome. Robert had joined Jim Hendrickson and Conrad out back. Nearer to closing time at 9:00 pm, Tony, Joe and Jack arrived. All spent some time in the dome observing Jupiter. After closing up the Clark we all went out back.
Jim Hendrickson had his refractor focused in on Jupiter. What a beautiful image.
It had been a long day (and week), so I decided to call it quits. I still had to drive Alex home, and we left much later than I had expected to. I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow after I got home.
Despite some cloudy weather which spoiled a few of our events, it ended up being one heck of an astronomical week!