Croton – Harmon Education Foundation

Encouraging Innovation in Education

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June 9, 2010 — Star Party at CHHS!

Croton-On-Hudson, NY, June 9, 2010– The Croton-Harmon Education Foundation recently funded a new telescope for Mr. Ray Ferarra, CHHS Science Teacher. The scope was ordered earlier in the school year and the CHHS science department? took it out for its first Star Party on Tuesday night, June 8th. The party was a wonderful educational event attracting more than 40 parents, teachers, administrators and students (ranging in age from 8 to 18).

The new telescope is a Dobsonian and CHHS spent $1500 of a $3750 grant for this telescope, phase one of the implementation of the grant. For phase two they expect to get a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. They want to get experience with one telescope before purchasing the next one.

Per Dan Cummings, community member and amateur astronomer who is helping with this grant, “the next scope will probably be a Schmidt-Cassegrain refractor design rather than a Dobsonian reflector. The Dobsonian is a lightweight, powerful, easy-to-set-up-and-use device good for viewing deep space object-like galaxies because it is such a good light collector for its size. However, the Dobsonian is a bit tricky to find stuff with while the Schmidt-Cassegrain can be hooked to a computer and will scan to the exact location of the sky. It is also better for astrophotography because it can track the deep space objects as they move through the sky and expose them for long periods.”

For last night’s star party Dan asked, “Just how tiny ARE we?… Imagine our Sun is the size of a grain of sand. Now, picture half a tennis court piled 1 meter (3 feet) high with grains of sand. That’s about 100 billion grains of sand. Pile it 10 meters (30 feet) high and you’ve got 1 trillion grains of sand. There are between 100 billion and 1 trillion stars (grains of sand) in the Milky Way Galaxy (our galaxy). The Sun is ONE OF THOSE stars (grains of sand)! And, just to make you feel even tinier, there are about 100 billion to 1 trillion galaxies in the known universe, each containing a similar number of stars to the Milky Way.”

It was a clear night and the group saw the planets Venus, Mars, and Saturn. They clearly defined the ecliptic (the imaginary line the Sun, moon and all the planets follow through the sky). Coincidentally, each planet was right next to a bright star: Venus paired with Castor and Pollux (the twin stars of Gemini; Venus was much, much brighter than both of them), Mars right above Regulus (Leo’s heart), and Saturn just near Zavijava – the star that Einstein used in 1922 to test his hypothesis that gravity bends light (it does). Participants also learned how to find celestial landmarks using the stars of the Big Dipper as a starting point.

If you would like to participate in the next public Star Party, send an email to crotonstar (a) gmail (dot) com This program as well as many others was paid for by the Croton-Harmon Education Foundation. If you have a program idea for the Croton-Harmon Schools – please share it with CHEF. Applications can be filled out by students, teachers, or parents. Through the generous support of the Croton community, CHEF has awarded grants of more than $500,000 for a variety of initiatives, many of which give students unique educational experiences that go beyond the scope of traditional classroom learning. For more information about CHEF visit the Foundation’s website at www.crotonfoundation.org.