Richmond Astronomical Society

Robot kids invade

Mar 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog, Events

Wow, we got quite a bonus at the Science Museum last night. At the beginning of our monthly skywatch, we might see a crowd of 30 or 40 people gathered around the Kugel, waiting for us to set up our telescopes. But, as I pulled up to the entrance last night, I saw a group of about 100 people standing there. And the driveway was full of buses. It turns out that the Science Museum was hosting part of this year’s 2010 FIRST Robotics competition. So, kids had come in from all over the place, including other states.

Over the course of the night, we must have had 400-500 kids and adults. Ken and Betty Wilson, John Barnett, and Jim Browder brought telescopes–and they all stayed busy.

Jim Browder set up the club’s Stellacam II, and set up his telescope to view the Orion Nebula. Jim had added  a small LCD TV to his tripod setup, so multiple people could see the image at the same time.

Why was the display so good? Well, the Stellacam is not your average video camera. It’s capable of capturing time lapse photography in real time, so the image you see has its photons multiplied many times, and the resultant image is just astounding. Instead of the nebula appearing as a little fuzziness, as in an eyepiece view, the clouds appear opaque, and large. Jim got many “wow’s” from the viewers.

In the bottom picture, you can just see a couple of people looking at a display of the crescent moon on the TV below the telescope.

With the weather being perfect, temperatures in the mid-70’s, the large crowd, a clear sky, the many telescopes, and the Stellacam, it was just a wonderful night to be at the skywatch. And to top it all off, we got a view of the ISS (International Space Station), low on the horizon around 9:25. It was a gorgeous night.

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