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Thread: Observing with the kids

  1. #1
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    I have four daughters ages 3,5,7, and 8. As I was coming back from a walk tonight with the 5 and 7 year olds they were looking for a face in the Moon. I asked - "You want me to get out the telescope?"

    Excited "Yeahs" and "This is going to be awesome!" So I pulled out the scope and we started with the Moon. "This is Cool!" "Wow, look at the craters!" They wanted to look again and again. The 5 year old figured out that it goes dark if you put your eye too close to the eyepiece.

    Then I showed them Jupiter. Lots more "Cools!" and "Awesomes!". My 7 year old said "It has arrows coming out of it!" (Tonight all four moons are on the same side). I explained that they were moons like our moon. "Jupiter has moons too? Cool!"

    "What else can you show us?" So we looked at the Orion nebula. They were amazed that the "cloud" is forming stars. "You mean its forming the stars in the night sky?"

    On to the Pleiades. As I'm lining up the telescope I hear - "You mean that clump of stars?"

    Then I cautiously turned the antique scope we were using over to them. They pointed it this way and that looking for patterns and clumps of stars.

    They wanted to see the big dipper. I said "You can't in a telescope." "Its too big isn't it?" one asked.

    Then we were back at the Moon. They insisted they could see the flag left by the astronaughts! [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif[/img]

    After an hour we brought in the scope and headed for the computer. I took them through the same tour that they had just seen with the telescope - but now with images from the internet. They got to see the actual flag and the footprints on the Moon. We talked about spacesuits and why they needed them. I showed them what Jupiter's "Arrows" actually look like. They were fascinated by the volcanoes on Io and I had to calm fears about people being hurt by those volcones.
    I found out that they are drawn to the false color "rainbow" images.

    I couldn't have asked for two better hours. The questions, fascination, "cools", "awesomes", and "Lets see thats" started when I brought out the scope and didn't stop even as I told them it was time for bed. This is what astronomy is really all about!

  2. #2
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    Cool, i remember being that age, the moon was always my favorite thing in the sky.

  3. #3
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    It's so much fun showing people the heavens. I hope you showed them Saturn too!

  4. #4
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    JS, I'm very glad you avoided an obvious Uranus joke there. Considering children were involved, such a reference would have been inappropriate at best.

  5. #5
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    JS wrote: I hope you showed them Saturn too!
    Actually, I didn't get a chance. They had me off looking at other things when we got done with Jupiter. But when we went on-line they wondered why pictures of a car were popping up when I did a google image search. [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif[/img]

  6. #6
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    I finally got to use my telescope tonight, and I sure felt like a little kid. Luna was simply amazing!

    I do have a question tho. What would Jupiter look like with a 2.4" apature refracter, with a 700mm focal length and a 4mm eyepiece? I think I found Jupiter...but all I saw was a white, squashed disk that moved quickly.

  7. #7
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    astrologysux wrote: JS, I'm very glad you avoided an obvious Uranus joke there. Considering children were involved, such a reference would have been inappropriate at best.
    No Uranus jokes - although the astronomy classes I teach often want that to be the class mascot.

    But you never know what kids will say. When I point out Sirius they both (keep in mind they're only 5 and 7) cracked some jokes about whether or not I was "serious" about that name. Go figure. I avoided cracking exactly that joke because I was afraid I'd confuse them. My mistake!

  8. #8
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    On 2003-03-15 20:58, Vermonter wrote:
    I finally got to use my telescope tonight, and I sure felt like a little kid. Luna was simply amazing!

    I do have a question tho. What would Jupiter look like with a 2.4" apature refracter, with a 700mm focal length and a 4mm eyepiece? I think I found Jupiter...but all I saw was a white, squashed disk that moved quickly.
    Well, it shouldn't move any more quickly than anything else.

    Jupiter will definitely be disk-like, I'd be surprised with that set-up if you'd see any bands, but you definitely should see the Galilean satellites (I believe all four are visible still, but mayboe only three now). They'll line up in a straight line... very noticeable.

    Try Saturn. The rings are resolvable even with a set of low-powered binoculars.

  9. #9
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    Vermonter asked: I do have a question tho. What would Jupiter look like with a 2.4" apature refracter, with a 700mm focal length and a 4mm eyepiece? I think I found Jupiter...but all I saw was a white, squashed disk that moved quickly.
    Glad you got a chance to break out the scope. That is about what you should probably be seeing with your scope. You might actually get a better view with a lower power eyepiece. With high magnifications the objects move fast through the field, the image is usually harder to focus, and the image will definitely be more susceptible to vibrations in the mount.

    Sounds like you're off to a great start!!

  10. #10
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    Actually, it look me several minutes to locate it. It's high in the sky, so the scope has to be at a steep angle. Found it with the finder alright, but the scope is still not aligned perfectly. I hunted the thing down with the main scope!

    But a white disk? I thought it would be darker, but ah well.

  11. #11
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    Vermonter wrote: But a white disk? I thought it would be darker, but ah well.
    Well, I've looked through scopes similar to what you're describing before. I think two things would help. First, try the lower power. If its harder to get the sharp focus the equatorial bands will be harder to pick out. Second, try using your averted vision (think of it like peripheral vision). The rods/cones on the side of your eye are more sensitive to night observing than when you look straight at something. It takes some practice, but you'll probably pick up the technique quick.

    Another thing you may wrestle with is atmospheric conditions. Its not uncommon to study a planet for 15 minutes just to get 5 seconds of crystal clarity when the atmospheric currents all settle just right. But regardless of that you should be able to see the equatorial cloud bands.

  12. #12
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    If you work with kids of a certain age and mention "Betelguese", they will automatically say, "beetlejuice, beetlejuice, beetlejuice!" from that Michael Keaton movie.

  13. #13
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    Please take that 4mm eyepiece to the nearest lake and throw it as far as you can (only somewhat joking). The rule of thumb is not to use more than 50X the aperture of your scope (60X on a really good night). For a 2.4 inch scope, that works out to 120X (144X). Any more and you are magnifying the diffraction effects of the wave nature of light. With a 4mm eyepiece, you are at 175X (700/4). Start with your lowest power eyepiece (longest FL) and work up until the image gets worse (even though bigger) and back down one.

  14. #14
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    I forgot about the overmagnification possibility. I'll use the 25 tomorrow and work up, and find out what I see. Thanks a lot!

  15. #15
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    [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_lol.gif[/img]
    So I pulled out the scope and we started with the Moon. "This is Cool!"
    :
    :
    "What else can you show us?" So we looked at the Orion nebula.
    :
    :
    Then we were back at the Moon.
    No~Way~No, this can't be good.

    Take them out again on a moonless nite for the Orion nebula. [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_rolleyes.gif[/img]

    -------------

    Yeah, when I was using my 6 inch f8 reflector, I threw my 4mm eyepiece away.

    I was thinking of setting up observing on Haloween night in the neighborhood, if there was a decent telescopic moon or Saturn/Jupiter. Any thoughts?

  16. #16
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    Lucky kids! I remember one night when I was about six, out fishing with Dad, lying back in the sand and gazing at brilliant stars in a completely black sky. I asked him a few questions, and remember that he couldn't answer some of them.

    Have never forgotten Mum taking us outside to show us Sputnik I or II, or perhaps the rocket that put it up there.

    Nowadays I actively try to interest children. Last week took an 8-year-old out to see the 28-hour-old crescent Moon just after sunset. Last Thursday told four families when to look for an overhead pass of the ISS.

    A few years ago I gave a talk on astronomy to my local primary school and was surprised at the intelligence of the questions that were asked. Kids know a lot more now than I did at the same age.

    One night last year I turned on the computer and looked up Heavens-above.com while a 6-year-old visitor watched TV. When her programme finished I asked, "Would you like to see some satellites?" "What are they?" she asked. I told her what they were, and it was all on! I picked a ten-minute period when five satellites passed overhead. She was so thrilled she had one of those little accidents that excited children can have.

  17. #17
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    Lexx wrote: No~Way~No, this can't be good.

    Take them out again on a moonless nite for the Orion nebula.
    Actually, it was good. They saw the nebula. They were very excited about astronomy. Where we live the weather competes with Seattle for the fewest clear nights in a year (Isn't it Seattle that holds the honor?) - so you take the clear nights when you can get them - Moon or no Moon.

  18. #18
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    I had my scope out last night too, and even though the moon was almost full we had no trouble finding the Orion Nebula. Of course, can't wait for a dark night to see it at better advantage. The "kids" I was with ranged from 18-25 years, but it was still great too hear them whoop and holler at the first view of Saturn with its rings and Jupiter's moons. After a long cold winter, it was wonderful to spend so much time outside, looking up.

  19. #19
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    Finally clear skies in UK, and when i'm not busy as well! Showed my Brother-in-law (who is 33) saturn and jupiter and to say that he was blown away would be an understatement. Been a long while since I could get two nights viewing in a row.

  20. #20
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    I showed my 6 year old daughter the moon and Jupiter last month after I got my new 8" SN and she was thrilled that she could really see the craters and clouds on other worlds. I saw the shadow of one of the Galilean moons on Jupiter's cloudtops for the first time that night, too, so I was just as thrilled as her. And now that the weather is finally warmer and the piles of snow have nearly vanished I hope to show her (and me) a whole lot more.

  21. #21
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    I second the motion of dropping that 4mm eyepiece. Vermonter, on your scope, 6mm is about as far as you could realistically push it, on a good night, and if the scope's optics are well made and properly aligned.

    10mm on your scope should show dark bands across Jupiter just above and below the equator, and the moons will be pinpoints. The red spot is in the lower dark band, but don't expect to see it with a 10mm, and Jupiter will still be very small in the scope. Saturn will show a single ring with a clear division between the ring and the planet, but no divisions in the ring, and will also be very small.

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