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Two Nice Nights With The Public


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This past weekend we had a couple of very worthwhile, well above average outreach events. I thought I'd throw out some words about these two unique events.

Our first opportunity was Friday night and our periodic session supporting Pima County Natural Resources/Parks and Recreation star nights at Ironwood Picnic Area. This event on the west side of Tucson alternates with a similar event on the east side of town at Aqua Caliente Park.

The weather all day was promising to be good enough to get the event in, but the rain system just kept on rolling in. Paul Ross, Rob Wilson, Erin Sol our PCNR point of contact, and I were there by about 6:05, and pondered the ugly skies. We were ready to give up at 6:45 but two visitors showed up, so after noting the slowly clearing skies in some areas we decided to give it a try. Paul and Rob were set up pretty quickly, but I was going through all my fuss and bother to get my video setup going. Paul was doing all the heavy lifting with the slowly increasing crowd, and Rob found his power supply had given up the ghost so it was Paul solo tap dancing quite well as we added visitors.

Meanwhile, I tried to align on Vega and just couldn't get it After 30 minutes, I took off the lens cap and Bahtinov alignment mask, and let there be light. All this time, Paul was teaching the heck out of the sky while I was crawling on the pavement trying to get Vega in the finder. Got something awfully dim in the scope, tried the camera and it was mighty weak, but I aligned and went for M57. Nada. Went over to Cassiopeia, couldn't get any stars to show up. Went back to Vega and checked the Telrad finder, and it wasn't attached at the front. It was about 15 degrees off. Tightened it down, got Vega just right, and went on to M57 for a gorgeous nebula. We had grown to between 11 and 15 visitors, so Paul and I tag teemed the entertainment. This lasted from about 7:50 to 9:00 or so. The sky was coming and going, as were visitors; I started knocking down at 9:20, but had four new people come up so I fired up the system again and did the stellar evolution story with Paul. Final packout ended at about 10:30 PM with a totally clear sky. The visitors were all thrilled to get a couple of hours of education along with Paul's eyepiece views and my incredibly awesome Ring Nebula. We did some multicultural story telling and myths along the way as well; if those first two intrepid visitors had been ten minutes later, a great night with environmental awareness would have been lost.

The next night was an event that, for me, is one of the most emotion packed of all of our club support activities.  I went over to our scheduled outreach at The Amity Foundation Circle Tree Ranch, a drug rehabilitation facility for Native Americans from around the United States. This is planned to be a diversionary, community activity for the patients, and this was TAAA's second time holding the star party. Two of us supported the activity: Jim Knoll and myself. At the first session we had, it was decided that during the twilight period after sunset until dark I would do a walk around the sky, but only from a variety of Native American cultural points of view. This turns out to be more important than it might seem. Many members of various tribes have been dislocated from the greater tribal culture, missing the ties that help get through troubling times. The Native American point of view is, in general, tremendously more life-affirming than what we who are not of that background do not understand nor appreciate. A walk around the night sky with old stories as a focus awakens a tie to a better time, friends, family, and culture. While I have been studying some cultures, there are so many to learn my own journey has just begun. This was made clear to me that while I was wearing a shirt that shows the night sky as seen by the largest American tribe, and my wearing it was a big hit with some of the patients, afterward I was asked by members of other tribes, who I had not mentioned in my tour, if I could tell them stories of their culture. These are people drastically needing to re-establish their own realities, and it is such an incredible gift to be able to help.

After the talk, a gentleman who struck me as a person of strong character, asked me what I knew or could tell him of his tribe, the White Mountain Apache. I didn't have any knowledge of that tribe specifically; I had done my Apache study of the Mescalero, and some Chiricahua and Jicarilla as well. This weekend I started looking at references on the White Mountain Apache, and was surprised at the differences in cultural development within the Western Apache peoples as a whole. I've just begun the study, but next time I will be better prepared. It was quite a growth opportunity for me to study the White Mountain Tribe as well as the San Carlos Apache and the Vatican Telescope experiences, and the histories going back into the middle 1800s. I am greatly in this person's debt for opening my mind to another way of looking at life, and dealing with life, from another culture's perspective.

The rest of my evening was mostly the gorgeous Ring and Dumbell nebulae in the Xterminator's living color, dazzling our visitors who were full of interest in the science that went along with the night stories.  Then came a period of time I'll never forget.

I am going through cardiac rehabilitation after five bypasses. Fixing the body is not nearly as difficult, nor as mysterious at times, as fixing the mind. My last visitor was a young woman who reminded me of my granddaughters. The first thing that struck me was how open she is about her life experiences. I won't go into her journey that brought her to Amity, but the strength of her character was amazing. She was open about her situation as a step in healing. We have different health and life experience issues, but we're dealing with them in similar ways. We started discussing the bio-feedback methodology of dealing with stresses, and as I started a sentence she could complete it! She seemed, for those moments, to have a deep understanding of where she is, and where she can go, and if her healing works out for the best would probably make a good counselor for others. I know my discussion with her helped me quite a bit, lowering my blood pressure for over 24 hours. I will hold great hopes for her as she builds a brighter future.

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20 hours ago, alan potts said:

A really good report Jim, oh how I recall laying on my back on the grass back in the mid 70's with my 3 inch refractor really thinking that without the diagonal it would show me so much more, mad fool.


Thanks, Alan.  Working without a diagonal on the SCT helps the performance with the camera and better alignment with the optical train, but my 70 year old body sure does not like to crawl on the ground to get a Telrad view or pointing.  So nice when it goes where it should!

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