SOHO Outreach Spotlight

Previous Outreach Spotlights

This is part of a series of overviews of people and programs that provide outreach experiences to schools or the public at large. We hope our readers will become inspired to try some outreach activities of their own.

Ft. Worth Amateur Astronomy Club

The Fort Worth Astronomical Society (FWAS) is an amateur astronomy club located in Fort Worth, Texas. We meet monthly at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and have been an active club since our founding in 1949. Our membership consists of all ages and levels of expertise ranging from absolute, total beginners to serious imagers. Our interests span virtually everything in astronomy; public outreach, visual astronomy, digital and film photography, and telescope making.

One of our club's goals is to expand our public outreach efforts into the greater Fort Worth community. Throughout the year our outreach consists of monthly star parties at the museum, star parties at local parks, schools, or camps, and visits to local classrooms to talk about astronomy. We are also a member of the Night Sky Network which is a nationwide coalition of amateur astronomy societies committed to sharing their time, their telescopes, and their enthusiasm for astronomy with their local communities.

One of our members Dave Titus recently visited TJ Lee Elementary School in Irving, Texas to teach Mrs. Acosta's first grade bilingual class about our nearest star and to show them the Sun through a telescope.

The telescope is a home made Newtonian on a Dobsonian mount. The solar filter is home made as well, with Mylar film being the filter medium.

Dave commented "I really enjoy working with elementary age students as they are fascinated with the Sun and are amazed when they view it for the first time through a telescope."

Another FWAS member Thomas Williamson hosts a monthly star party at Lake Whitney State Park. Club members support this event by bringing their telescopes and sharing their astronomy knowledge with campers and drive-in guests. Here is a picture of member Harry Bearman conducting a solar observing session with a group of girl scouts.

Somewhere amongst the kids is a Meade 90mm ETX with a full aperture white light solar filter. Harry says "I always give a safety lecture before allowing anyone to look thru my telescope at the Sun.  I have a 4" diameter magnifying glass and I discuss how it focuses the light just as the telescope optics do.  And I point out that it's about the same size.

Then I focus the magnifier on some dark paper, perhaps cardboard or something.  (Don't use white paper, it's not as effective.)  Typically it bursts into flame in under a second.  Then I tell them the cardboard is their eyeball.  The lesson is NEVER look at the sun directly thru a telescope unless it has a filter covering the FRONT of the telescope.  I tell them that no other type of filter is safe." Another recent solar event was held in a local public park. FWAS partners with the city of North Richland Hills to conduct star parties in city parks. During a recent Family Fun Night one of the volunteers Jeff Barton brought an awesome solar viewing setup. Here is a picture of one of the guests enjoying a spectacular view of the Sun.
Here is Jeff's description of the detail guests were able to see while doing solar observing at this event. "Before the Sun set behind the trees, I had the SM90 Coronado h-alpha scope providing some very nice views of sunspot 798 and it was actively flaring. There were some scattered, low prominences at various spots along the limb and lots of nice surface detail. S798 continues to throw up loop prominences around itself and these were evident as dark filaments."

Club members find the SOHO website to be a very useful tool when presenting the Sun to students. Often the weather will not cooperate when visiting a school. We are in Texas, so viewing the Sun on a blistering hot school courtyard is out of the question. And sometimes on cooler days, the cloud cover blocks out the Sun. So an online resource is essential when doing public outreach. The SOHO images, links, and handouts are invaluable tools to the amateur astronomy community as we share the wonders of our nearest star.

To learn more about the Fort Worth Astronomical Society visit our web site. To learn more about the Night Sky Network visit their web site. To contact the FWAS regarding this article, send an email to

TELL US ABOUT YOUR ACTIVITIES: If you use our SOHO images or movies, provide outreach and programs in the area of solar study, and would like to be considered for our Outreach Spotlight section, write to steele.hill[at] with a brief overview of your efforts. If we think you'd make a good candidate, we will contact you.

Also visit:
Best of SOHO
Latest Images
SOHO Gallery
EIT image LASCO image EIT image

Last modification: November 01, 2005
Feedback and comments about this site, please direct to the SOHO Webmaster.
Questions about our mission, the spacecraft and science, please check: Dr. SOHO.

Click here to escape from frames