Daniel wanted to look at the moon through the telescope. It was a nice night – clear – so I carried my Wal Mart special outside and set it up on the driveway. I have an eight inch reflector. I think I used it a couple of times before it ended up a permanent conversation piece in the living room in our old place. It was too big and took too much time to set up. I can have my little two and half inch refractor pointed at the moon in a couple of minutes.
Usually I don’t bother with the finder scope when looking for the moon. I just sight the telescope like a rifle and fiddle a bit back and forth until it lights up my face. However, I considered this a “Science Moment”. I explained to Daniel how the telescope worked and had him find the moon in the small scope mounted on the side of the larger one and put the moon in the crosshairs. Then I lowered the telescope a bit and moved it slightly to the left when he wasn’t paying attention (the finder scope is off a bit). I dropped in a low power eyepiece and focused on Tycho Crater and the mountains just coming out of shadow.
Daniel wanted to look at the moon when it was full. I explained it was better to look at the moon when it was a crescent. He gave me a quizzical look.
“Why’s that?” Ah, another Science Moment!
“It’s noon on the moon when it’s full,” I said. “That means the sun is straight up in the sky.” I led him across the street and we stood underneath the lamppost. “Take a look at our shadows.” We started walking back across the street, imitating the setting sun, and watched as our shadows got longer and longer.
“The shadows get so long, we can actually see them through the telescope,” I explained. “It’s easier to see craters and mountains when their shadows help to highlight them.” At that moment, the light decided to go out.
“And this is like an eclipse!” said Daniel in the dark.
I laughed. Not only because it was pretty funny, but with the realization he must listen to me (at least occasionally). Otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to make the joke. Science Moments pay off!