Astronomy Day 2012

The W. A. Gayle Planetarium, in partnership with the Auburn Astronomical Society celebrated National Astronomy Day, at the Planetarium in Oak Park in Montgomery, on Saturday, April 28th from 3:00 – 10:00PM CDST. 

Here's the day's agenda:

3:00PM: Early visitors were able to view the seven-day-old Moon, and the Sun in the light of hydrogen-alpha with PST Solar Scopes and members’ scopes filtered white-light images.

4:00PM- 8:00PM: 
• Outside: Children's Activities; Stomp Rockets, Solar System Scale, Moon Event Card activity ; Chad Ellington 
• Inside:   Children's Activities ; Space Coloring Pages 
• Inside:    Children's Identification - Public Service of New York Life Insurance

 5:00PM:  The “Telescope Clinic” was open for guests to bring their sick, disassembled, or otherwise malfunctioning telescopes for repair. 

6:00 PM:  Presenter: Chad Ellington: "Finding Exoplanets”. (NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador – Adjunct Astronomy Professor at Auburn University Montgomery) -  Planetarium auditorium. 

7:00 PM:  Presenter:  Dr. Michael Sterner - University of Montevallo - Shepherd Observatory briefing. The director of the James Wiley Shepherd Observatory at the University of Montevallo, will provide an update on the observatory and  its 20-Inch Plane Wave telescope. James Wylie Shepherd Observatory

7:24 PM :  Sunset 

7:30 PM: "Tour of the Night Sky" (if time allows) in the planetarium, giving an overview of what the guests will see when they step outside. 

8:00 PM:  Telescopic viewing with Auburn Astronomical Society:  Viewing Saturn, Mars and Venus and of course the mountains and craters of the 7-day old Moon and several binary star systems. 

Past Astronomy Day events, can be seen at W.A. Gayle Planetarium Events

Thanks to Rick Evans and David McConnell for their photos

We had beautiful clear-blue skies with warm (but not miserable) temperatures in the late afternoon, for our April 28th Astronomy Day 2012 event at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium.  There are lots of thanks to go around to those who made it happen.

Thanks first, to the following for volunteering their time, telescopes, and expertise:

Frank Ward, 12-inch LightBridge Dob & AAS's 40mm PST solar scope
Alan Cook, 10-inch Meade LX50 SCT
Russell Whigham, Celestron C-11 SCT and AAS's 12.5-inch Dobsonian
David McConnell, 8-inch Celestron GOTO SCT
Joseph Jackson, iOptron 106mm refractor
Mack Acheson, Orion XX14i IntelliScope Dobsonian & 12 inch Astrotech reflector
Chad Ellington, Coordinating the children's activities & AAS information table
AAS prez, Rhon Jenkins, Glad-hander-in-charge & wife, Joyce Jenkins

Pulling double (or triple) duty was Chad Ellington, NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador and Adjunct Astronomy Professor at Auburn University Montgomery who, in addition to his outdoor children’s activities, gave a presentation on "Finding Exoplanets” in the planetarium auditorium. Chad also called our visitor’s attention to the passage of the International Space Station and a very bright Iridium flare.  Thanks, Chad!

Thanks to Dr. Michael Sterner who came down from the University of Montevallo - James Wiley Shepherd Observatory, to give an update on their future plans for the observatory and  its 20-Inch Plane Wave telescope. 

We really appreciate that former AAS member, Mack Acheson, invested his time and expense to make the 6-hour drive each way from his home in Prairieville LA, to help us out this year.  In addition to the two telescopes he brought, Mack was also helping with the planetarium’s 60mm Coronado solar scope.  Mack had conspired with Rick Evans to make this a surprise visit.  Thanks, Mack!

It was good to see AAS member Joe Albree and frequent visitor, C.J. Butterbaugh coming out for a visit and to support our event.  C.J. sent  this note:

Just wanted to drop a note to thank all of you guys in the Auburn Astronomical Society for presenting the events at the Planetarium on Saturday.  I had a great time and am looking forward to more events like this to share the educational experience with my family. 
We heard several of the visitors during the telescopic viewing say that they had heard about our event on the 6:00 evening news.  Thanks to WSFA meteorologist, Eric Snitil who had come out to the planetarium at about 5:00 to interview some of the people there and make video of the telescopes set up outside and made it back to the studio in time for the evening news. 

Thanks to Trish Jester, planetarium assistant, who helped with the preparation in advance of the event and was there when I needed her helping me find Saturn in the AAS big Dob.

And finally, our thanks to planetarium director, Rick Evans.  Let’s begin with his hosting the event and offering the planetarium facility to the public free of charge.  This also includes the invitation to, and the securing of, our speakers.  At Rick’s request, Orion Telescopes & Binoculars sent a boat load of door prizes including an  Orion Starshoot USB eyepiece and an Orion Video Capture device donated to AAS.  Rick followed up with a very nice letter of appreciation to Orion with images of people using the gifts Orion had sent.  As part of the publicity for the event, Rick contacted the Montgomery Advertiser.  They ran a full-page article in the My Life section of the paper the Friday before.  And thanks to Rick, for leaving home early and coming home late for days on end to have everything ready for us, and to he and his wife for rolling up their sleeves to erect the canopy they put up for the AAS area outside.  Keep in mind that this all took place on the heels of Rick’s presentation promoting the proposed Digital Planetarium Projector to the City of Montgomery’s Mayor, Todd Strange, and his entourage just the day before.

For those who weren’t able to come this year, I hope we’ll see you next year.