Sunday, March 8, 2009

Flandrau Science Center Star Party

Last night we set up our scopes at Flandrau - no special event other than Saturn is at opposition (opposite the sun in the sky), and we also had a spectacular crescent Venus visible considerably before sunset. Mike Terenzoni, head of educational outreach, is always looking or a few scopes and I like to oblige when our schedules allow. The bad news reaching us these days is that the 33 year old facility is mostly being shut down as a cost cutting move.

While the science center is still used extensively as a field trip destination for hundreds of classrooms throughout the Tucson area, the University has chosen to eliminate the salaries still on the payroll. In addition, it appears the University is also postponing Flandrau's ultimate replacement as part of the Rio Nuevo development downtown, at least for a year, possibly for longer - who knows... It is a shame such a resource is closing down...

Last night we attracted the normal amount of traffic, and also had a huge surge a little later when the basketball arena let out after the last home match of the season against Stanford. Everyone was in a good mood with a solid win, and also, folks were really impressed with the high-power views of the Moon and Saturn I gave with the C-14. It was Melinda's first public outing with her C-5 and she also got some rave reviews and long lines. She was quite the pitch woman, getting lots of the people to drop donations into the "light buckets" nearby to raise money for the science center. I remembered that we had a hand counter that I used to keep track of those looking through the 14". Tonight we got 230, a little fewer than we usually get in a night at the Grand Canyon, but a good turnout nonetheless!

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