School Star Parties

One of the community outreaches offered by the Astronomical Society of Nevada is free school star parties. I have always found this to be very rewarding. It is a simple way to kill misconceptions about science. The most common misconception is the North Star is the brightest star. Or that you can see any planet at any time. An ASN affliction is a no moon night, yet the public loves to see the craters and mountains of the moon. These misconceptions aside, I love the expressions students and parents have when they first look through a good telescope. Wow and Cool are the favorite expressions. I make it mandatory for parents to look through the telescope. I also give them an ASN business card. It is a comfort for parents to know, they can take their children to see the universe again on another night. I usually get at least one new member from a school star party. February was science fair month for Washoe County School District. Veterans, Lenz, Taylor, Warner, and Juniper Elementary School all invited us to give their students the opportunity to see the universe.
It is always nice to have more than one telescope at a star party. I want to thank Tony, Jeff, Peggy, Warren, and Phil for bringing their telescopes out and sharing the fun. This was a new experience for Warren. He was amazed at the knowledge of some students about astronomy. Warren is getting to know his C11 for project RECON. Sharing resources at school star parties is no different than at public or members only parties (Paul, He liked my 8mm eyepiece too.) Jeff’s refractor is a perfect star parties telescope with the IPad and all the gadgets.
Three telescopes make a good star party. One for the moon, one for a planet, and one for a deep space object. A fourth person, master of stars, helps greatly to guide the public to the different telescopes, point out constellations, and answer questions about ASN. Peggy did a great job at Taylor being the Master of stars! The Deep Space telescope brings new knowledge to the public. The life and death of stars is not well stated in the press. A surprised gift is always welcomed and the deep space objects are just that. Thank you all who helped.

Category: Programs Committee

Recon Status through May 2013

     Recon hosted a 4 day occultation training session at the Jack Davis Observatory in Carson City April 4-7 2013.  There were about 30 trainees in attendance.  Marc Buie, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, and John Keller, Director of…

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Category: Programs Committee

Camping with the Stars

Martis Creek Lake

We have two Star Parties at Martis Creek Lake, July 27 and August 31.…

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Category: Programs Committee

Seeing Pluto with the ASN

Everyone knows something about Pluto, including most third graders.  Yet few people have actually seen it, including most astronomers.  It’s natural to think that we in the ASN would have seen all the planets, even famous former planets.  So how come so few of us have seen Pluto?

A telescope at least 12 inches in diameter is recommended for Pluto.  Most of us don’t have a scope that big.  And there are other reasons we don’t look for Pluto: first, it’s technically difficult to identify, even with a go-to telescope (just ask the RECON folks).  Second, it’s not a very impressive sight.  In fact it looks like a very small faint star, seemingly ordinary.  You can’t recognize Pluto by just looking at it; instead you identify it by recognizing the pattern of the star field around Pluto.  In these respects Pluto is unlike most of the objects we usually find with our telescopes.  The value of the effort is in the satisfaction of knowing what you are looking at (just as with most other objects in the sky!).  Anyone who looks for Pluto needs determination and imagination. 

Since Pluto currently has a low declination, it appears only in the southern sky and only for a few months each year.  Fortunately for us, those months happen to be in the summer.  This year Pluto comes to opposition on July first.  Each summer for the next several years there will be opportunities to see Pluto, but as the years go by it will get fainter and move farther south.  Its southern location and drift means that the viewing “window” when Pluto can be seen at its highest in a dark sky is getting shorter with each passing year.

Read more: Seeing Pluto with the ASN

Category: Programs Committee

School Star Parties

 School Star Parties
One of the community outreaches offered by the Astronomical Society of Nevada is free school star parties. I have always found this to be very rewarding. It is a simple way to kill misconceptions about science. The most common misconception is the North Star is the brightest star. Or that you can see any planet at any time. An ASN affliction is a no moon night, yet the public loves to see the craters and mountains of the moon. These misconceptions aside, I love the expressions students and parents have when they first look through a good telescope. Wow and Cool are the favorite expressions. I make it mandatory for parents to look through the telescope. I also give them an ASN business card. It is a comfort for parents to know, they can take their children to see the universe again on another night. I usually get at least one new member from a school star party. February was science fair month for Washoe County School District. Veterans, Lenz, Taylor, Warner, and Juniper Elementary School all invited us to give their students the opportunity to see the universe.


It is always nice to have more than one telescope at a star party. I want to thank Tony, Jeff, Peggy, Warren, and Phil, for bringing their telescopes out and sharing the fun. This was a new experience for Warren. He was amazed at the knowledge of some students about astronomy. Warren is getting to know his C11 for project RECON. Sharing resources at school star parties is no different than at public or members only parties (Paul, He liked my 8mm eyepiece too). Jeff’s refractor is a perfect star parties telescope, IPad and all the gadgets.…

Read more: School Star Parties

Category: Programs Committee