Texas Buddhist Association

We were invited to take some telescopes out to a camp held for Buddhist youth, quite a ways out of town compared to our usual outreaches. Objects shown included the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Cat’s Eye Nebula.

Night Sky Network Log:
Event Date: Saturday, 7/1/2017
Name of Event/Service: BYC Camp
Type of Service: Public Outreach
# of Hours: 2

Description of Service Performed: We arrived sometime before sunset and I set up my XT8. The kids came out around 8:45 and left sometime just before 10PM, by my estimate. We showed the kids the Moon and Jupiter through the telescope, and helped them find Jupiter and Spica with the naked eye. Some adults and a monk stayed behind after the kids went to bed, and I showed them Saturn and the Cat’s Eye Nebula before leaving sometime around 11PM.

Comments: I missed logging this when it happened, so I’m going back and logging what I remember now. -9/22/2017

It was a long drive to get there, but we planned in plenty of time and arrived early. Telescopes were to be carried quite a long distance to a temple plaza for setup, or we could use a golf cart that they had. We opted to carry the telescope, since it’s easy to carry and we had multiple people to do so. I set up the XT8, and we awaited the arrival of the kids!

It was quite pleasant sitting around chatting with the others. There were seven other HAS members, not counting me and my parents, and a total of six telescopes (including mine). The setting was very peaceful- you don’t have to be a Buddhist to enjoy the quiet and the perfectly sculpted landscaping. A group or two walked through the plaza while we were waiting, and we invited them to see the moon (at least one group did take a look).

After dinner, the kids were sent to clean up, and then sent to the telescopes! It was not extremely busy, though there were a lot of kids; we had enough telescopes to spread them out. Most of the kids were in their teens, though there were a couple of younger kids. We showed all of them the Moon and Jupiter. Joe had spoken to them earlier, given them planispheres and taught them how to use them, so several kids tried to put that knowledge to good use by trying to identify things in the sky. Identifying Jupiter or Spica proved tricker than it might have been, because of their apparent closeness at the time.

The camp had offered to let us stay after the end of the event and do our own observing if we wanted. This was appealing because although not “dark skies”, the site had much better light pollution than Houston, and in theory the Milky Way should have been visible on a good night. (Unfortunately, this night did not count as a “good night”; we had a first quarter moon brightening things up, and while the skies were quite clear at first, there were increasing levels of what seemed to be smoke as the night went on.) But you try peeling yourself away from a telescope set up under skies that are darker than your usual observing site, smoke or no. 🙂 So after the kids had gone, and only a couple of adults and a monk were left, I turned my telescope to a couple of different targets. Saturn was finally beginning to rise, so I showed it to the remaining people, followed up by the Cat’s Eye Nebula. I made sure to explain about planetary nebulae, and tell them that what they were seeing was a star that had reached the end of its life and expanded out into space, but it didn’t have much of an impact on them. The nebula itself was not much to look at, just a faint fuzzy star, so they weren’t too impressed. Small planetary nebulae are probably not good outreach objects.

After showing the Cat’s Eye, we packed up and left, not wanting to impose any more on the remaining adults’ time. They let us use the golf cart to take the telescope back to the parking lot, and gave us each a gift bag containing a small notebook, a keychain, and a beaded bracelet as a way of saying thank you. I thought that was very nice. 🙂

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