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National Sidewalk Astronomy Night
National Sidewalk Astronomy Night

I took my 8 inch Dobs to the busiest, brightest, most obnoxious spot any astronomer could ever hope for. A downtown corner, teeming with people, street lights, cars, neon signs. Saturday Night- Party Night, hazy, the viewing far from 'stellar', but what a wonderful night it was. I had over 100 'customers' look at the Moon. I would say that almost all of them were seeing a celestial object through a telescope for the first time. I bet most of them have never turned even their binoculars skyward. Nay, many probably had never pondered the night sky at all. I'll be out next month with my voice recorder to 'capture the rapture'.

Our town is the most diverse of any in the area. We have Google HQ with all the smart Googleers, young scantily clad gals on their way to the trendy nightclub just a few hundred feet away, retirees, Stanford profs and students and mendicants of all shapes and sizes. One of my favorite pitiful besotted souls of the streets staggered up to the telescope, looked in, and in an instant was transformed. He actually knew something of the night sky. His speech became more distinct. I thought he was tearing up a bit, as he gazed into the eyepiece. He thanked me profusely for the experience. You know, I pass him almost every day and don't think he remembers me, but hopefully he remembers his view of the Moon.

This is the second night I've taken to the streets. Last was in the fall. The Moon was close to Jupiter, so our moon and his were easy targets. I enjoy the Dobs for its' easy 'slewing' and convenient eyepiece height.

You don't need much magnification to be awestricken by the Moon. I used about 30X. I have a nice wide angle 40 mm eyepiece, so even without guiding, the image stays put long enough for a couple of people to view in succession. People are 'impressed' that I schlepped this monster downtown. It's quite eye-catching, with its' bulk and odd appearance. A straight refractor could almost be considered cartoony. The Dobs looks odd and interesting. It looks 'serious'. Maybe that helps the Wow!' factor and could help attract more people.

It was so heartening that every person who walked by was curious enough to stop. I remember seeing a little biographical film of Dobson in Haight-Ashbury. As I recall, he couldn't get people to stop. I was blessed with a crowd less cynical. I had a line of 4-5 people for two hours in Mountain View. After the Moon went behind a tree, this left only Saturn. I packed it in, then unpacked after deciding to give it a chance.

There was a street lamp right in the line of fire. But it didn't matter. We still had a reasonable view. One teenager, refreshingly skeptical, would not believe that I didn't have some sort of projector inside the tube forming the image of Saturn. He curiously passed his hand in front of the scope while staring through the eyepiece to make sure the image disappeared! Pretty clever, eh? Of course his hand was not quite big enough, so a little Saturn leaked into his eye, but he was convinced even so and left properly awed.

Date Taken: 08/09/2011
Author: Norm G.
Category: Show & TELescope Contest (2011)

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