pod’ie training.

As most of you know, with in the first few weeks of arriving in Temecula, I attended a meeting of the Temecula Valley Astronomers. It was there that I met Susan, who would have thought that meeting her would lead to such an amazing opportunity……. When we first met, she told me about the Friends of Palomar. I joined up pronto, and Susan got me on the list for a tour and regular readers of my blog (all 3 of you) may recall that first tour.
Back then, I honestly thought that would be as good as it gets……
But, no, on my second tour we saw the Hale Telescope slew and the shutters open!
Wow, so, surley, THAT was as good as it gets???…..Well, no, apparently Susan was conspiring all this time, and last week I got an email ‘formally’ inviting me to sign up to become a ‘Palomar Observatory Docent’ (pod).

First things first. Whats this docent thing? I had never heard the word in Australia…… Well, according to the free dictionary.com, docent means ‘a teacher or lecturer at some universities who is not a regular faculty member or a lecturer or tour guide in a museum or cathedral’.
Clearly it is the latter of the two meanings that applies to us here.
So, a Docent is a tour guide………….
Did that sink in? I took me a moment…… I was being asked to become a tour guide for Palomar Obervatory….. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Woooo whhhhhooooo!!!!!!

So, I filled out the paper work, and last Sunday was the first time ever that two tours were offered on Sunday’s. (Clearly a big part of my acceptance). Freddy decided that she would come up with me.
Sunday, mid morning, we headed up the mountain. We decided to drive, but we will try taking the bike a few times as Freddy gets a little queasy in the car, but I suspect she will be fine on the bike.
We met up with Mike (tour leader for the day) and Susan, who was working in the gift shop.
The idea was that we just tagged along and saw the tour from ‘Joe Public’ point of view. I wanted to get a feel of what it was about…. So Freddy and I were tail end Charlie to Mikes two tours.
It was not long and we had about 15 people for the first tour. ($5 adults, $2.50 seniors and $2kids). We set of on time, and here is a little taste of what happens……..
The first place we stop is just up the walk way from the visitors center. Its the first time you see the 200” dome.
The group pauses and we talk about who ‘owns’ and runs the observatory, the size of the dome and a little of the other telescopes on the site.
We then walk up to the Palomar Testbed Interferometer and we talk a little of how it works and what a light year is.
Next is George Ellery Hales bust just inside the entrance to the 200 inch dome. We talk about his life and achievements.
Up the stairs, note at the top the cut away section of the dome wheels.
This is where you enter the public viewing gallery. Usually there are some people there that are not part of the tour, but they quickly stop talking and start listening (and hopefully are so impressed they go to the visitors center and sign up for the next tour!).
Here you talk about the pouring of the mirror, the grinding of said mirror, the light path of the telescope and what it was like to use the telescope when it was first commissioned.
You then open the door to the dome floor and collect every ones tickets. (Hey, sorry, no freeloaders!)
(Sub note, I love hearing the oooo’s and aaarrhhhhs’ when people walk into the floor, its so much more spectacular to see the telescope right there, rather then through the glass of the gallery. (Worth the price of the tour right there)).
Once on the floor you talk about the weight and ballance of the ‘scope. We have a small model that we get someone to drive and it makes it clear how the telescope moves around the sky.
Next its up to dome platform. You can really see the scope now.
We talk about the different parts of the scope and dome, the walkways, elevators and so on.
Next, its out onto to the dome catwalk for a stroll around the outside of the dome, we point out the different domes, markings and mountains.
Lastly its back into the dome to talk about the Friends of Palomar and answer any last questions.
Then, you lead everyone back down to the floor and out to the gallery.
Tour over.
Mike has set me a nice high bar, hes a great Docent, I look forward to working with him and the other docents.
The exciting thing is that Freddy has decided that its not the worst thing I have taken up and she wants to join me as a Docent and be the crowd control on my tours. So we will be ‘working’ together when we do it, that was unexpected (I honestly thought it would be too geeky for her, but she sees how excited I get. Also she saw how beautiful it was up there, and secretly, I think she has been smitten by the beauty of the 200” is as well).

So, the burning question is……. Would take a tour if this guy was the docent of the day??