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Bringing the Universe to Your Classroom!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Solar Eclipse Activities for Everyone

Of the people who will be viewing an eclipse (total or partial) on August 21st, many will be young. Young enough that you'll want to double and triple check their solar viewers before letting them look up at the Sun, and young enough, too, that you'll want other activities for them (and you!) as the Sun makes its way through the long partial phases. Not to mention, young enough that this will be their very first eclipse, and you'll want to make every moment count!

During the partial eclipse, two crossed hands create many holes that act as pinhole projectors.
Photo by J. Kelly Beatty.

Viewing the Eclipse with Kids

The first and simplest activity is to make an eclipse viewer to see the Sun. Note: Don't look at the Sun directly or through anything other than safe solar viewers or No. 14 arc-welder's glass during the partial phases of the eclipse. It's completely safe to look at the blocked Sun during totality though.

If you weren't able to procure a pair of glasses, there are other options: Pinhole projectors work just as well, if not better, to view the Sun, and they come with the side benefit that they only work when you face your back to the Sun — eye safety guaranteed.

Find a cereal box, scissors, some tin foil, a pushpin or toothpick, and tape, and you'll have everything you need to make a pinhole projector to view the solar eclipse. Watch NASA's video for the easy-to-follow instructions...

See full Source Article by Monica Young at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/2017-total-solar-eclipse/solar-eclipse-activities-kids-families/
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

The 'Great American' Solar Eclipse

This upcoming solar eclipse is almost exclusive to the continental US, and all of the US will see it, in some fraction. It is, I think, going to change American's lives, in some pretty profound ways.

Most of us have seen lunar eclipses, or, eclipses of the moon. But most of us (myself excluded), have never seen a total eclipse of the sun.

the Great American Eclipse - 21 August 2017
Graphic Created by Dale Alan Bryant.

Lunar eclipses are, pretty much, non-interactive events. If we don't happen to look up at the moon, we might miss it, entirely. Not so with a total eclipse of the sun. For those fortunate enough to be in the 'path of totality',  it will envelop them completely. They won't be able to escape it. But, total solar eclipses involve us in ways we wouldn't expect: Here's what I remember from the total solar eclipse I saw when I was a kid, from Woods Hole, Mass:

* Even though the solar eclipse I saw from Woods Hole was total, and this upcoming eclipse is partial, for most of the U.S., it will get dark enough in the eastern half of the country at mid-eclipse, that, if we're driving, we'll have to put the headlights on! If you're inside, you might want to turn on some lamps - for a few minutes anyway.

* When the moon begins to clear the face of the sun, the birds will begin singing - thinking that it's dawn again!

* For, possibly, the very first time - you will see whole crowds of people become silent. Everyone will start whispering.

This is not only a visual event but a mental and spiritual one, as well. It's the kind of event that turns kids into amateur astronomers - and into professional ones, when they grow up!

The eclipse will bring people together in ways we rarely get to witness.
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Saturday, August 12, 2017

ATEO Ready for First Light

Insight Observatory's Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) is ready for first light! The six-year dream and vision we at Insight Observatory had to setup a remote online telescope for educational and leisure purposes are now complete. Special thanks to our telescope's host at SkyPi Online Observatory for being the professionals they are in helping to fulfill our dream. Their persistence and skills to complete the installation were second to none. John Evelan, a Managing Partner of SkyPi, was instrumental in upgrading the FLI PDF focuser on the 16" astrograph imaging telescope for more precise focusing.

The Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Ready for First Light. Photo by Caleb Ramer.
The Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Ready for First Light. Photo by Caleb Ramer.

After collimation of the mirrors and polar alignment were completed, the crew at SkyPi completed the final tasks of a T-point run. This is where the TheSky (the software that controls the mount for the telescope) captures images all over the sky and then makes a "model" of how accurate the telescope is pointing. Later on, during normal usage, TheSky software will use this model so that pointing is accurate no matter where you slew the scope.

The next step is to be patient and wait for the weather to clear up in New Mexico. Unfortunately, it is monsoon season there now and the skies are not cooperating so much. However, the forecast is calling for clearing skies for most of the upcoming week.

The Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO). Photo by Caleb Ramer.
The Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) Awaiting for Clearing Skies. Photo by Caleb Ramer.

Our goal will be to test the system thoroughly utilizing the TheSky software directly from the computer. When we are satisfied that everything is functioning, we will then integrate with the ATEO Portal that our systems engineer, Muir Evenden, has developed to allow the remote telescope system to be accessible to the public via the internet.
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