Author Topic: Solar observing/class at Palo Alto High School  (Read 1119 times)


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Solar observing/class at Palo Alto High School
« on: March 31, 2016, 06:51:31 AM »
     I've been co-operating with Mr. Josh Bloom, the astronomy instructor at Paly, and yesterday we set up set of 3
instruments for his students to observe the Sun as part of their course module on that subject.  We had:

        a. a 60mm double-stack H-alpha set at some 40X
        b. a Shelyak LHIRES Lite solar spectroscope (plus a reference poster showing the main Fraunhofer lines)
        c. a 10" dob. (the school's instrument) with full-aperture solar filter

    The students moved from one instrument to the next, sketching what they saw onto a worksheet devised by Mr. Bloom.  Based on
SOHO data from five previous days,  they were to predict how the Sun should look today, and then compare that to what they saw
in the H-alpha and dob.  Students picked up quickly on the rotation aspect, but were somewhat surprised by the "roughness" (i.e.
supergranulation) of the Sun.  In addition they saw plage, filaments and one sunspot group in the H-alpha, and the sunspot group in
more detail (being viewed through a photospheric instrument rather than chromospheric) in the dob.  With the spectroscope they
were free to simply cruise the spectrum and see the couple of thousand lines that are visible in the LHIRES instrument, as well as
find some major lines (Na doublet, Mg triplet, H-alpha, Ca H and K).  An interesting sidelight was the direct demonstration of superior
female color vision: the girls could see the H and K lines much better as a group than the boys could.
    The event was a success, in spite of bad seeing (watching that sunspot in the dob. was like following the ball at a tennis match :-)
and failure of the RA motor on the H-alpha mount (we hand adjusted to keep the Sun in view, which is tedious but works at low
magnification). Feedback from the students afterward was uniformly positive, including remarks such as "best thing we've done all year."
    Semi-change of subject.  If any of you are interested in working with school groups, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is
restarting its "Project Astro" program of matching amateur astronomers with local teachers.  If you are interested, visit the ASP
website and fill out their application form.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2016, 01:27:29 PM by buynoski »