My Best Astronomy Experience of 2011

For the second year in a row, I visited two provincial parks on consecutive days. On June 29, I drove from my home in Melville, Saskatchewan, the 3.5 hours to Greenwater Lake Provincial Park, where I met with one of the park interpreters. She and I set up my telescopes on the lawn in front of the concession -- always a good place, since it's on the direct line from the beach to the ice cream! I estimate that 150 people viewed our Sun that day through both H-alpha and white light filters. That evening, I handed out Star Finders, plus gave a talk and showed video clips of astronomy projects around the world and in orbit until after dark. The viewers and I then went to a dark-sky area at the top of a ridge (the winter ski hill), where I set up my 10-inch Sky-Watcher Dobsonian. About 20 people came out -- mostly families with kids. And was it dark -- so dark that the Milky Way cast shadows on the ground!! It was a real treat to have interested and knowledgeable people asking questions, offering answers, and having a great time together. Even after you explain that it's not a toy, kids love seeing the light from a laser pointer shining up a couple of miles into the night sky to pick out constellations and cosmic sights. Of course, as kids got tired, the crowd got thinner, and we packed up just after midnight.

I stayed with friends at their farm just outside Porcupine Plain. The next morning, I was up early, driving to Good Spirit Provincial Park, where I met up with a new interpreter and started all over again, showing passersby the Sun through my solar scopes. I was close enough to Melville that I was seeing friends from home. One of them is Jim Huziak who lives in Yorkton. He knew in advance I was going to be there, so he and his wife showed up in the afternoon to invite me to their cabin for supper. Nice! Then Jim joined me in the evening for more Star Finders and my video/talk session, then we set up our scopes together for the campers at a dark site nearby. With Jim's 18-inch Dob and my 10-inch model, plus some binoculars, we were showing off the night sky to several campers who braved the mosquitoes to join us

Over the two days, I've estimated that 400 people looked through the scopes and binoculars. And, best of all, I have an invitation to return next year to both parks, making this an annual event!