Today has proven to be quite extraordinary. Tim’s brand-new Lunt solar refractor was set up on a tracking mount, prepared for use. This specialized 60 mm instrument is solely dedicated to viewing the sun. A solar filter, to permit safe daytime observation, was attached to general-use Celestron 9.25” SCT on its very solid base. (For whatever reason, most people refer to refractors in metric, and larger scopes in inches – go figure). Then we all waited for the sun to show us its bright face through a fairly serious overcast. A frost advisory had already been posted for overnight. This isn’t your ordinary June in southwest Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile, a school bus from Digby High, containing almost forty grade 9s, made its way to the observatory. This sort of educational outreach is such a positive outcome of developing an astronomical centre in our region! Interest in the skies and in leaning about them is best started young. It takes time to learn, and we never stop absorbing new information. These young people stand to reach from earth into the heavens if they choose to pursue that path. Interplanetary probes, manned spacecraft and highly-advanced satellite technology provide a continuing development for the future. They offer hope for the survival of humanity as we outgrow our space on this crowded planet.
The enthusiastic and lively students eventually arrived, with their watchful and patient teacher-chaperones, one of whom I knew from my own teaching days. And the sun … did not arrive! Instead of solar observation, the students enjoyed a walk around the newly-developed campground under the sky, with explanatory talks en route. They seem impressed with the setup and the idea of bubble dome tents from which occupants could view the stars as they rested comfortably within. These kids were interested in everything. They asked relevant questions and clearly wanted to know more about the project.
The students then proceeded toward the dome itself. Beforehand, they were treated to some draw prizes (astronomy-themed, of course) and given an opportunity to examine the two telescopes sitting in the ground viewing area. Sadly, they were unable to make use of them. Sol Invictus, right? The sun would not be conquered on this day. Still, they seemed to appreciate the observatory tour and their introduction to the massive 14-inch telescope housed under its dome. Tim provided them with detailed information about it. One lucky winner even received a complementary night-sky session as her draw prize, so it’s hoped that she will return and perhaps bring a companion to enjoy this experience. Tim and Amanda also made available an array of cupcakes in addition to the prize draws. These went fast.
When the bus was reloaded and disappeared down the long road back to Digby, all seemed eerily silent. Part of the appeal of this special place is, in fact, this sense of peace and detachment from ordinary cares. At night, the vast bowl of heaven arches into infinity, and the stars wheel in their courses without regard for mere mortals gazing upward. In the daytime, birdsong and the river’s music accompany a different sort of hushed reflection. The energies of these teenagers proved a wonderful counterpoint and we do need both. All in all, it turned out to be a most rewarding day at Deep Sky Eye.