With the complication of the virus lockdown, RAS has altered the way we host skywatches. Telescopes are out, due to the impracticality of cleaning the eyepiece between viewings. So, we’re now offering two alternatives: a remote Zoom session, or people bring their own binocular, and we provide a guide to point out objects in the sky with a laser. That avoids: people touching a common object, the need to wear masks, and close contact.
We’ve held several sessions in the last couple of months, with both alternatives. I presented a Zoom astronomy overview for two classes of sixth graders at Moore Middle School last week, and last night with a high school group at Trinity Episcopal High School. We’ve held skywatches with telescopes for both these groups in the past, and they wanted to continue their exposure to astronomy this year.
The Physics teacher at Trinity, Elizabeth Kelly, is very enthusiastic about astronomy, and even attended the VAAS (Virginia Association of Astronomical Societies) convention that RAS sponsored in 2018. She always has a large turnout for our skywatches, and this one was also surprisingly large, with 30-40 students showing up on a very cold night. We fought clouds for a while, but we managed to see pretty much everything I was shooting for.
There are actually a lot of objects that can be seen with a binocular. My list for this time of year includes:
- ISS pass–we had one last night
- The Summer Triangle (pointing it out)
- The double-double (Epsilon Lyra)
- Sigma Lyra double star
- Andromeda Galaxy–this one’s a stretch in urban skies, but I just love talking about it
- Mizar and Alcor
- Double Cluster between Cassiopeia and Perseus
- Moons of Jupiter–then tie it in to future NASA missions to Jupiter and Saturn
- The Moon