Sunday, June 28, 2009

Administaff Observatory Open House 6/27/09

The Administaff Observatory had an open house last night. It was one of three scheduled open houses for employees of Administaff (a major donor for the observatory). It was also my "check-ride" as observatory manager; I'd had the training but this was my first opportunity to apply it.

Things went well, I think. There were a few hiccups with procedure. I used the laminated procedure charts and there were some steps that were out of sequence; other minor steps were missing. Wasps had made a nest near one of the external light switch lock boxes. For all that, it was a pretty smooth evolution.

By the guest book, we had 28 people show up: Administaff employees and their spouses and families. Aaron did most of the talking and object selection; he's very knowledgeable and knows the equipment inside and out. For my part, I drove the 20" Planetwave CDK instrument, fetched some visual aids, spoke one-on-one to a number of visitors, and smiled a lot.

I'm used to using "deck" scopes (personal telescopes setup outside an observatory on the "deck"). Mine are alt-az manual telescopes (no motors or computer-controlled drives). I have a lot to learn about TheSky software and about manually (well, joystick) laying an equatorial mounted telescope using right ascension (RA) and declination (DEC) controls; the 20" and 16" pier-mounted scopes in the observatory are driven that way.

I also need to review all the "cheat sheet" information, and I need to resume doing casual observations so I can become more familiar with the night sky. I've been very irregular lately, and I realized last night I had forgotten some of my constellations and objects. This review will help me select interesting objects to point the scopes at, and will improve my repertoire of things to talk about.

It was a blast, though. The attendees looked at the Moon, Saturn M3, M13, M57, M51 (very faint), Albireo, M6, and M7. Seeing was not particularly good. There was no cloud cover, but the high humidity and lack of rain lately meant there was a lot of polution and water vapor in the air. Light from the 35%-ish Moon and the Houston "nebula" tended to wash out a lot of detail, and the early evening viewing time also did not help. That said, everyone was delighted, and there were plenty of oohs and ahhs.

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