Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Longest Tuesday Ever!

The saga of the visiting Russian amateur astronomers continued today.  This morning the youngsters were invited to attend an American high school.  This was not a normal school, but a local charter school that enjoys a #1 national ranking!  Truth be told, I had not even heard about Basis Tucson North, since it is quite a distance from our house, and the school is literally brand new, this being the first year at this location.  But I heard about it from one of my co-workers, who introduced me to the principal, Julia, who jumped at the chance to host our Russian students.  A model of diversity, Julia was even able to find students the same age of all the students, most of them speaking Russian to help ease the transition for our visitors!  They all were able to visit a wide variety of classes, from Latin (for 5th and 6th graders!), Biology, Physics, Spanish, and English.  Interestingly, after seeing the tarantula on our hike last night, one of the teachers brought one in to Biology and the class was able to pet it!  Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera into the school, so didn't get any photos, but the kids took some, so the folks at home will hear about their adventures.  I think they all made a few friends, and I THINK I volunteered to help with setting up telescopes should they ever try to schedule a star party... 

Meanwhile,Sergey and I had some time on our hands, so we hit the road to do some errands.  We went to the Pima Air Museum to check out some souvenirs that the kids want.  Sergey had been looking for jackets with insignias from the Air Force or NASA, but the best candidate was a little too small for him!  We also went to a local astronomy store and the largest shopping mall in Tucson, scouting possibilities to bring the kids later.

We needed to leave for our evening observing program at the Mount Lemmon Sky Center by 2:30, so returned to the school early.  Julia gave us a walking tour of the school and met a number of the teachers and students.  We finally left, picking up Chuck Schroll, who is our tour guide tomorrow for the Pima Air Museum.  A long-time astronomy volunteer with us at the Grand Canyon Star Party, he was interested in the Mount Lemmon observing...  We stopped at one of the overlooks, Geology Vista, to let the kids stretch their legs and admire the view of the mountain ranges in the area.  I was able to get a group shot and a shot of one of the girls who found an uncomfortable perch to review her images...
Running a little late, we got to the top of the observatory just as the gate was opened for the limited entry.  We went straight to the telescope to demonstrate we could spot stars in the sky other than the sun when our tour guide Keith Schlottman pointed the telescope to Deneb.  After some orientation at the .8 meter (32" diameter), we also eventually spotted the Sun through a H-Alpha filtered telescope before heading down to the classroom.  We enjoyed a nice dinner while Keith gave a presentation on various aspects of astronomy using spectacular images obtained with the facility's telescope.
Dinner was interrupted to get out and watch another beautiful sunset (sunset waits for no one).  Walking a short distance (150 meters) to the west, we had a great view of the western horizon.  Keith pointed out a number of interesting things to observe, including our own shadows, cast against a nearby telescope dome.  Our shadows were a strong blue color, caused by light from the blue sky filling into our solar silhouettes.
After a return to finish our dinners, we finally headed up for 90 minutes or so of observing in a dark sky.  The dome was pretty crowded early, so I set up my camera to take a few short (30 seconds) tripod pics of the sky.  The following 2 images are with a 14mm wide angle lens on my Canon.  At left is an exterior shot of the dome, red light flooding out of the entrance, with the Big Dipper just above the trees, Polaris and the Little Dipper at upper right.  Our buddy Chuck mostly held still for the exposure at lower right.  After ducking in a couple times to look through the telescope, the crowd stepped outside to do some binocular observing.  I took the opportunity to take a portrait of the telescope without a moving crowd of observers around the eyepiece.  Here at right, Sergey is looking at the Triffid Nebula, holding perfectly still for the 30 second exposure.
After a great presentation, the observing ended all too soon and by 9:30 we were headed down the Mountain.  After the 25 mile drive down the hill and another 15 miles across Tucson, our visitors got back to their rooms about 10:30.  Since I picked them up at 7:15 am, it had been a VERY long say (15 hours!).  The plan is to sleep in a little late - I'm picking them up at 10am tomorrow for pancakes, then head over the the Pima Air and Space Museum, and the Titan Missile Museum, for a shorter day of aviation tours.  With Chuck's company, it should be fun!


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Anonymous said...

Aw, Google translate. ;)

Thanks for sharing your adventures! Tell everyone "Privet" from Korea! (Haha)