Public Viewing with AAS at Canal Park May 21, 2010
This is my Canal Park report from Friday May 21st, 2010
I arrived at the Canal Park parking lot at 9pm and saw a glimpse of the moon through the clouds. I set up my telescope and table of planetary props and then looked up to a completely overcast sky. I had the sign set up -Free Telescope Viewing. People would stop and ask me what I was looking at. "Clouds" I would say. They shook their heads like I was nuts. More people stopped by and wondered what I was doing. Some just hurriedly walked by. I started to apologize, to show them my props, and I got that feeling like I should pack it up and leave...quick. Nothing is more embarrassing than sitting beside a telescope, with a sign saying FREE VIEWING, and it is cloudy.
These two elderly ladies were walking toward the canal to watch a ship come in. They wondered what I was doing, who I was with, why I was out there and where was the moon. They were real good listeners and liked what I talked about. They were retired school teachers. "We want to see the moon on the way back," they said. More people came by and slowly it was clearing. We looked at craters on the moon as clouds drifted past. Doug, another AAS member stopped by and we could see Mars and Saturn. Soon, the two 'teacher ladies' strolled up and I offered the moon to them. They engorged upon it with questions and interest. We next looked at Saturn and they laughed and wowed at the sight, even knocking the telescope off target. I soon had it back and they commented about the line of interested people waiting to look. "You're a fine young man," they said.
The 4 medical students from Canada really found me to be a very unique sight in a public place. These delightful ladies fired away questions at me like, "Who sent you here, or who do you represent? Do you do this on your own initiative?" I told them yes. They thought that was marvelous. They treated me like an astronomy geek. "What got you interested in astronomy? How do you know these things of which you are telling us?" Then they looked through my telescope. Yes, I had my 6 inch dob made from a sewer pipe. It's a real charmer for the ladies. (Not) But when they looked through it, this is what I heard..."WOW, THAT IS SO AWESOME, IS THAT REALLY SATURN?" "Yes," I said. "GUYS YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT THIS!" Said one gal to the others. We then looked at the moon and each one of them had to take a photo of it through their digital camera. They struggled. I showed them how to do it. It was easy...I said. Then they figured it out and were delighted to have a moon shot to show others back in Canada.
Doug and I showed the crowds the disc of Venus near the strobing red antennae towers on top of Duluth's hill. We then looked at Mars and I pointed out the Big Dipper and the north star. One girl thought Arcturus was the north star.
Around 10:45pm the people were mostly gone so I aimed the telescope at M13 for Doug to have a look. It was horribly washed out. It looked like a smear on a smokescreen. City lights are so offending.
Arrowhead Astronomical Society