20130308ACASDMin              ACA Outreach:  Hammond Hill Elementary Science Day, North Augusta, SC


Back in September 2012, Hammond Hill Elementary (of the Aiken County Public School system), won the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Award!  This is the highest award given to schools hosting grades Kindergarten through the12th grade and is the result of extremely hard working students, teachers, parents, staff, community, and school administrators.  In the spirit of applied educational diversity, the continuance of said educational excellence was on full display during Science Day 2013, at Hammond Hill Elementary, who administers local educational needs for K5 to 5th grade students. Based on the level of current educational achievement, the varying grades of students followed a specific curriculum of introductory exposures to a plethora of natural and man-made “experiences” which occur and/or are present in the world of scientific discovery and wonder.  Such experiences included the man-made sciences of flight, electricity, health and nutrition, and medicine, while on the “natural” side of science, the students were likewise exposed to plant life, wildlife, the weather, and last but not least, “SPACE.”


As part of the 4th grade curriculum, six members of the Astronomy Club of Augusta were proud to present a multitude of day time astronomy experiences for the students.  Believe it or not, there are many observable objects to see, learn about, and discuss in the light of day, with two of the most obvious objects being the sun and the moon.  In “round robin” fashion, 5 work stations were set-up on the outdoor basketball court, which allowed the approximately 150 4th graders to see the moon, observe the sun, learn of the different phases of the moon and to identify the current phase of the moon which they saw, and play a game that reinforced a sense of direction and the importance of direction, when it comes to astronomy and navigation.


Stan Howard brought the 8” Reflector and the Televue Genesis 500 mm Refractor (Harry Bell), so students were able to see the moon with two different types of scopes. Trying to keep the moon in the view finder for both scopes is a busy job, so we are fortunate that Diane Drake was there to assist on the “Harry Bell”.   After a while, Stan encouraged students to look at easier targets with the 8" Reflector and gain some experience manipulating a telescope on their own.  Resets were periodically required.  Stan showed the students how binoculars are made with a broken pair of binoculars.  He also showed them how to use binoculars, and let them practice looking with several pairs. 


Stan and Kenneth Beard teamed up at one of the busiest stations to talk with students about safe ways to view the sun.  Kenneth taught them how to use a multitude of viewing instruments. With #14 welding lenses and solar filtering glasses, the students could look at the sun directly.  With the Darth Vader Bucket-head Viewer, students could look indirectly at the sun through a pin-hole camera obscura.  Also observing the sun indirectly, Stan showed them sunspots with the Don Hostetler solarscope, and pointed out that the sunspots are bigger than Earth.  Stan and Kenneth also pointed out that they could use these methods to view the solar eclipse coming August 21, 2017. The students enjoyed taking turns naming the planets in order of distance from the sun.


On to the “lighter side” of ACA’s Science Day participation, Ron Ferris brought his Solar Coronado Scope (A) and had it set up for direct viewing of the sun.  By the use of a hydrogen-alpha filter (see the Appendix for details), all but one wavelength of the visible light spectrum is eliminated, leaving the viewer filled with the luminescence of a deep red object.  Students could see real time events happing on the sun, including prominences, wavering at the solar edges, granulation, and a dark sun spot.  Ron also let students view the sun with no magnification with the  solar filter glasses.  These were very popular.


At station Solar Simon Says (B), Steve Drake led the game where the students played a modified version of Simon Says, but with compass based directional commands, in relationship of the earth to the sun and the moon to the earth. Steve used command terminology for the 4 major points on a compass (NESW), and also included relative terms of axis, rotation, spin, orbit, meridian, and azimuth.

Each class was divided into two groups, culminating in two winners for each classroom. Each winner received a compass for being the best at following and knowing their directions.  At the end of the day, the two winners, from each classroom competed for the grand prize of a remote control solar system for their classroom.  After the dust settled, Ms. Pope’s 4th grade championship duo of Shane and Braden won the finale.  It's hard to say whether the kids or the adults had more fun.  But one thing is for sure, the children definitely have more energy!  Many thanks to Steve for supplying these prizes.


Tedda Howard was ever the educational leader with her presentation of the moon.  Her students used sun and shadows to confirm NESW directions, helped each other find the moon naked-eye, and determined its current phase while learning the vocabulary to describe the differing phases of the moon.  They also learned how the lunar maria were formed, the names and locations of the largest 12 that we can see, and other major landmarks such as Tycho, Kepler, Grimaldi, etc.  Lastly, they learned how the moon progresses across the sky, with Mare Crisium rising first and always in the lead until it sets first, while Oceanus Procellarum is always following behind.   


Tedda also provided preparation and diplomatic services with the school that helped our program run smoothly.  Aiken County School Board member Keith Liner visited our program in progress and seemed to enjoy and appreciate our effort and results.  One of the TV stations also came by.  We were particularly appreciative of good school organization.  Parent volunteers brought most of the students to us, and took our information back to teachers.  We appreciated two high school seniors, nice young men who helped us carry telescopes, tripods, stools, T-posts and pounder, binoculars, solarscope, water, and more. A special “shout-out” goes to parent volunteer Chris Altman, who, despite near loss of his voice, assisted Steve in the set-up, “herding” of students, and dismantling of equipment. God Bless and Get-well soon!  These school volunteers helped us reach many young children and open their minds to the vast opportunities for scientific observation, exploration, and discovery in their future.


If you are interested to participate in our outreach program for National Astronomy Night on April 20 at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center (RPSEC), please sign up now.   You can read more about it on our Calendar of Events for 2012-13.  It is a great experience for all.


Hope to see you then and there!


Steve Drake


Appendix A: Coronado Solar Telescope
Appendix B: Solar Simon Says

20130309ACADVMin ACA Dark Sky Star Gaze: Messier Marathon, Globe at Night Project

The Astronomy Club of Augusta met at NMR-DSO for dark sky observation on March 9, 2013. Twelve members attended. Members began to arrive around 5pm and immediately started to set up their equipment in the field. The focus of the evening was the Messier Marathon led by Mike B.

The club members brought a considerable variety of equipment to view the heavens. Stan set up the club 500mm Genesis Refractor Telescope, club 8” Meade Reflector Telescope, and his Sky Master Celestron Binoculars 15 x 70, and his 12 x 63s. John used 8 x 50 and 15 x 70 Orions. Mark M. brought an 8” Orion Telescope. Pat’s set up included a Celestron C8 Edge with a CG-5 computerized mount. Mike was using an Oberwerk BT 100 Binocular Telescope, and Dot used her new tripod with her Oberwerks 20 x 80 binoculars. David P. was thrill to have a good site for his 14" Schmidt Cassegrain.

The sun set quickly, the sky was fairly clear, and we all set out to work on our lists. One of the first finds was the brightest open cluster M45 the Pleiades (Seven Sisters). In Orion we saw Betelgeuse, Bellatrix and Rigel as well as M42 (the Orion nebula) just below the belt. Continuing on to Lepus we spotted the Globular Cluster M79. Working off of Sirius we found the 6th magnitude open cluster M46 and the 5th magnitude open cluster M47 as well as M41. Using Capella as a guide M36, M37 and M38 were identified in Auriga. As the Big Dipper danced across the sky we spotted Polaris, “arced to Arcturus and sped on to Spica”.

At about 8:30 John W. asked us to compare our view of Orion with his picture charts, for the International Globe at Night Research Project. It was quick and easy to do. John submitted our data to GatN, and will let us know to total results when GatN publishes them.

We took a break around 9pm to warm up and feast on chili, cornbread, chip cookies with green icing, and hot chocolate with pumpkin spice marshmallows, with many thanks to our hosts Tedda and Stan for the wonderful hospitality.

While she had a captive audience, Tedda gave us an update on the club’s successful participation at Science Day 2013 at Hammond Hill Elementary School (please see the minutes above dated 3/08 for details). Tedda noted that on March 12 John W., along with other club members, will participate in a similar program at Evans Elementary School (see minutes below).

Other announcements included:
• March 22nd 7:00 PM at RPSEC: the program will be “Reaching for the Stars: Interstellar Space Travel” presented by Dr. Clayton Heller please plan to join us for an interesting and fun evening.
• April 20th is National Astronomy Night at RPSEC – volunteers are needed for station masters and assistants on the lawn to share astronomy topics – please sign up to help out.
• July 24 – 27th ALCON 2013 which will be held in Atlanta this year – Ten people have signed up to go so far. Please sign up at the next meeting if you are interested – more information to follow as it is known.

Stan shared news of the PanSTARRS comet that will be visible after sunset this month – we all will be watching for it. Tedda added a model of the asteroid Ceres, made by Elizabeth H., to the solar system display in the breezeway (many thanks Elizabeth). When we returned outside we found a cloud-covered sky bringing an enjoyable and productive evening to an end for many.

Respectfully submitted,
Dot Valentine

20130312 School Outreach: Evans Elementary
John White
Astronomy Club of Augusta

Dear Mr. White,

The teachers and education support professionals at Evans Elementary in collaboration with Evans High School, appreciate what you have done to help us sponsor Starry Knight: A Stellar Night of Science on March 12. Working as a team, we got the word out about the importance of children's learning through science experiences.

During Starry Knight: A Stellar Night of Science, parents and children enjoyed a completely free night of fun! Children and parents together shared refreshments, swapped books, created crafts, chose from more than 14 different activities that all focused on exploring our world, and won door prizes.

We want to thank you for your contribution that helped make this event possible. You helped us remind parents of the crucial role they play in their children's education. Thanks again for helping us celebrate the joy of science and working with us to motivate our children to explore our world on March 12th and every day. We appreciate you!

Sincerely yours,

Marilyn Huff Gail Sims
Evans Elementary Evans High School
March 18, 2013

PS. Thanks Mark M. for helping also. Tedda


The Astronomy Club of Augusta held its monthly meeting on March 22, 2013, Fri.7PM at the RPSEC. Seventeen members welcomed 17 guests, two of whom joined as new members, for a total of 34 in attendance.

Sign-in and sign-up sheets were available for the coming year's activities in the lobby. Boarding passes were issued to all attendees! Kenneth introduced our speaker, Dr. Clayton Heller, Physics Dept. Chair & Planetarium Director at Georgia Southern University, who took us on a fascinating ride into Interstellar Space, with a practical assessment of the types and challenges of travel, and the possibilities of other galactic life colonies. It was a great ride. Stan videoed parts of the presentation.

Many thanks to Kenneth for delicious refreshments. It was too cloudy for lunar observing, so we stayed and talked for quite a while.

20130312-17 Observing Comet PanSTARRS

Stan and Tedda observed Comet PanSTARRS every night at NMR-DSO with binoculars, telescopes, and Camcorder. Stan made a short video of the experience to show at our March 22 meeting. Kenneth, Lalit, Simar and Sabi all came to view it. The weather was cold at first, then exceptionally pleasant and clear. John W. and Mark M. saw the comet at the lake. Pat saw the comet in Aiken. Doug N. saw it in Charlotte and sent two nice photos. Since then it has been too cloudy locally.

The Nominating Committee for 2013-2014 includes Wes Sloan, Mark Moffatt, and Vic Hardy.
Wes has recently taken ill and will not be able to serve.
Mark Moffatt has agreed to act as Committee Chair.
Mark and Vic will contact you to ask for your service as an officer and as a member.
They will also ask you what you would like and what you can do best this coming year.
Please think about this now and be prepared to assist them to the best of your ability.
If they have not reached you by April 15, please email them with your thoughts and/or a good time to call you.
They will present the slate on April 20.
Thank you.