A successful astronomy day in Tucson

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association had a huge presence at the 2013 Tucson Public Star Party. In addition to providing telescopes and operators throughout the day, they set up a wonderful display with lots of information and handouts. // all photos by Michael E. Bakich
On Saturday, February 16, 2013, Astronomy magazine hosted an all-day skywatching party at the East Campus Observatory of Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson. Activities started at 10 a.m. and continued through 9 p.m. And what a day it was!

Several groups set up tables and staffed them throughout the day. Among them were the Girl Scouts, the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, the International Dark Sky Association, and the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. Astronomy magazine also had a table, where we gave out 500 copies of the March issue and 1,000 copies of our special publication “How to Buy Your First Telescope.”

Our host, David Iadevaia, an astronomy professor at Pima Community College, had the observatory open both day and night. He proudly showed people its newly installed all-sky camera and provided a link so they could see what it was showing at any time via the Internet. In the evening, he opened one of the observatory domes, which housed a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.

The displays were quite popular. Astronomy gave away 500 copies of the March issue and 1,000 copies of our popular 16-page booklet, “How to Buy Your First Telescope.”
One of the highlights of this event was the wonderful and varied set of five astronomy-based PowerPoint talks. I led off at 11 a.m. with “Star Death,” a look at the ultimate fate of stars and the corpses they become. As a preface to that subject, however, I talked about Comet PANSTARRS. I recounted its discovery, revealed current images of it, presented star charts and horizon diagrams showing its position through May, and urged my audience to get out and see it.

Next up, at 12:30 p.m., was Keith Schlottmann, president of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA). He told his audience about the local amateur astronomy scene in “Amateur Astronomy in Southern Arizona: An Embarrassment of Riches.” After seeing his talk, I now know that if someone lives in southern Arizona and wants to get involved in astronomy, there are plenty of ways to do it.

Keith Schlottmann, president of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, gave a talk titled “Amateur Astronomy in Southern Arizona: An Embarrassment of Riches.”
At 2 p.m., Scott Kardel, president of the International Dark Sky Association, presented “Light Pollution: Perspectives from Earth and Space.” This is an important subject, and Scott succinctly outlined the problem by presenting examples with striking visuals. He then explored how to make our skies darker by working with a variety of groups on solutions.

Astronomy Contributing Editor Mike Reynolds was next, with a 3:30 p.m. talk about “Meteorites!” And, thanks to the fireball that exploded over Russia, what a lead-in he had. He detailed that event from many angles and showed pictures and videos (with sound) that really drove home the shock people must have felt. The second half of the talk explained the differences between types of meteorites and how people can collect them.

Finally, at 5 p.m., Astronomy Editor David J. Eicher highlighted the latest findings in the science when he presented “Astronomy’s New Frontier.” From the latest news about Mars to the edge of the expanding, accelerating universe, Dave left few stones unturned as he chatted about recent discoveries.

Scott Kardel, president of the International Dark Sky Association, was the day’s third speaker. His talk, “Light Pollution: Perspectives from Earth and Space,” encouraged lots of great questions from the audience.
Throughout the day, the TAAA manned several solar telescopes that allowed visitors to view the Sun. Then, as twilight began shortly after Dave’s talk ended, they took off the solar filters and pointed telescopes at the Moon, Jupiter, and all kinds of deep-sky treats. You can read about the nighttime observing that followed the talks in Dave Eicher’s blog.

Everyone was happy with the participation, the weather, and the turnout. I’m already thinking about a repeat of this event in 2014.

Related blogs:
 On the road: The 2013 Tucson Public Star Party, by Editor David J. Eicher

 On the road: A dinner with legendary comet discoverers, by Editor David J. Eicher

 On the road: Prepping for the 2013 Tucson Star Party, by Senior Editor Michael E. Bakich

Visitors throughout the clear, warm day were able to observe the Sun through safely filtered telescopes provided by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association.
 On the road: Meteorites at the 2013 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, by Editor David J. Eicher

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