Western University Physics adn AstronomyWestern Science

Cronyn public nights - Information for Presenters

Each Saturday evening over the summer (from the beginning of May until the end of August), and in collaboration with the London chapter of the RASC, the Department of Physics & Astronomy organizes weekly open houses a the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory.
During these public nights, a professional astronomer delivers a presentation about an astronomical topic, and visitors get the opportunity (weather permitting) to look at interesting celestial objects through the Observatory's main 25.4 cm refractor, as well as through several other telescopes and binoculars set up by the RASC on the patio and the walkway.

If you've never participated in these events, a brief description of how you can contribute is given below. You can also have a look at the Schedule; then, sign up by contacting the Observatory Director (Prof. Jan cami, P&AB Rm 203; ext 80978; jcami at uwo.ca).

Running a public night

You should arrive at the Cronyn Observatory at 8:00pm. You should let in the people from the RASC, but it is generally a good idea to not let the public in until everything is set up and ready to go. Check the classroom, and organize the chairs if necessary. Bring the projector (and laptop if need be) from the basement and connect. All astronomers are encouraged to wear a recognizable (name) tag. Upstairs, open the doors to the patio, and set up the main refractor (remove lens caps and put in eyepieces etc.). RASC folks will take out our portable 8inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and their own Dobsonian from the small corner storage rooms. Keep these doors closed and locked (!) once everything is set up to keep curious kids from ransacking our cupboards. Do not attempt to use equipment that you have not been trained on and/or are not perfectly familiar with. The last thing to do is to bring out the sandwichboard from the basement, and put it outside, near the sundial, with the arrow pointing to the observatory. Then, open the doors for the public.

Members of the Department can then typically participate in three different roles:

  • Presenter - You deliver an outreach type presentation, aimed at an audience of interested non-scientists and kids. A presentation should last no longer than about 15 minutes; after the presentation, visitors often ask many questions. The same presentation is typically repeated a few times throughout the evening as new visitors arrive. You are free to create your own presentation, or you can choose one from our Presentation Library or look at them to get some ideas.
    On or around days with celestial events that our visitors may have heard about, it would be good to have a presentation on topic. Some noteable events include the η Aquarids (May 3), the summer solstice (June 21), a conjunction between planets and/or the Moon, a "SuperMoon", a noteable space event (e.g. Juno arriving at Jupiter) and the Perseid meteor shower (which peaks Aug 13). If you create a presentation, please consider sharing it here for future use as well! For just a few nights, there is a dedicated topic for that evening (e.g. the Perseids). A projector is available at the observatory; it is recommended to bring your own laptop for presentations.
  • Telescope Operator - You operate the Observatory's main refractor, pointing it to visually interesting objects (typically the Moon, planet, double star or a nebula). You then help visitors to have the best possible observing experience -- you tell them how to look through the eyepiece, and you try to point out the interesting things they should be looking for (e.g. particular features on the Moon, moons/rings/cloud band of planets, ...). To operate the telescope, you need to be trained -- a training session is planned for Wednesday May 11, 2016, at 8:30pm. If you want to participate, contact the Observatory Director (J. Cami, email: jcami at uwo.ca).
  • Crowd Manager - You basically talk to people. You can welcome them as they enter the Observatory, explain to them what is happening (i.e. presentation, observing), and answer any questions they would have. On busy nights, you should also try to direct the crowd a bit to avoid long lines of waiting people -- e.g. by telling the people upstairs when a presentation is about to start, by pointing out that there are more telescopes on the patio and on the walkway, ...

At the end of the event, you clean up and close up the observatory -- there is a checklist upstairs that you should follow. When everything is back where you found it, verify that nobody is left in the observatory (check the washrooms!), switch off the lights and close all windows and doors before leaving.

Each public night, one person will have the overall responsibility. This person needs to ensure that one of the astronomers on duty will have a key to the observatory and open up at the right time; is in charge of setting up the conference room if need be (and put the sandwich board outside); and will take care in closing up (by following the proper checklist). Note that the observatory is now card-access only, so ensure you are on the access list if you need access to the building. In case of doubt, contact the Observatory Director.