On a beautiful, clear evening in April 2009, I gathered in my front yard with a troop of nine Girl Scout Brownies to get up close and personal with the moon and other readily identifiable bodies in space. You see, my oldest daughter Jessica had just turned eight years old and had asked me a few days earlier if I could teach her Brownie troop about astronomy so the girls could earn a Try-It patch (too young to earn badges). I was so tickled and of course, eagerly agreed. As a (very) amateur astronomer, I can identify a few heavenly bodies with my little Observer™ 70mm EQ Refractor that I thought might interest the girls. So off I went, spending the next few evenings downloading sky charts and lots of colored pictures of the major constellations and the planets Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the brightest object for us, the moon.
On the evening of the big debut, the girls gathered at our home around dinner time for pizza and a "lecture" by Dad on astronomy and what the night sky in the northern suburb of Philadelphia would have to offer us that evening. I'm not too sure how impressed the girls were with all of my colored pictures and sky charts, but as night began to fall, a spectacular half moon slowly rose in the evening sky. The time had come to leave the lecture hall (aka the Family room) and head out to the front yard. With my telescope already set-up, I used my SkyLine™ Delux Green Laser Pointer to point out the most recognizable constellations, the North Star, some of the planets, and the moon. Finally, it was time for the girls to try the telescope. I focused the moon in the eyepiece and turned the telescope over to my daughter. She casually stepped up and gazed into the eyepiece. Her reaction, the biggest, brightest eyes and smile I've ever seen! Needless to say, the next few hours were spent gazing at the moon and planets with the Brownie Troop, their parents, siblings and a few excited neighbors. The girls were completely blown-away by the images being reflected back at them-"I can't believe it!"; "This is soooo awesome"; Wow!, How did all those dents and bumps get on the moon"; and on and on. The peak of my excitement was when my daughter gave me a great big hug at the end of the evening and told me how much she loved me for teaching her about the stars and the moon and asked if we could use the telescope the next evening.
Since that first evening, my family and I have spent numerous evenings exploring the night sky with our little refractor. It is a great opportunity to spend precious time with the kids enjoying a hobby in which the whole family can participate.
Thank you Orion for giving us an awesome experience and for opening the doors of amateur astronomy to all of us!