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.

Solar Maestro of Outreach

(Note: Gary Palmer has enjoyed a 33-year career as a Lighting Designer and Cinematographer working on projects that have taken him around the world. In January 1999 Gary was asked to photograph the visual effects to the film "Mission to Mars". He remembers immediately picking up Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines. Within a week he was perusing the night sky. Before long, he started observing the Sun. He is well-known for his solar photographs which can be seen at A brief biography of Gary can be found at here)

Outreach for me originates from a feeling of gratitude. The beauty of our nighttime sky from a dark site location sky brings tranquility and intrigue. It's quite the accomplishment that a simple push of a button will slew a telescope to any one of 180,000 celestial objects and within seconds you are looking back in time at our magnificent universe. When I'm immersed in nighttime objects like M-15, the Pleiades, or any star in the Milky Way, I hold in my mind's eye an enhanced understanding of how our closest star performs. This performance helps to comprehend those infinite pinpoint sources of light we call stars.

When you consider that inside the core of our Sun hydrogen is being fused into helium at an astounding rate of 600 million tons a second. Those numbers boggle the mind. Energized particles are carried along by photons radiating outward from the core. These photons begin to ricochet throughout the radiative zone and continue to bounce off each other for hundreds of thousands of years before finally passing through the interface layer and into the convection zone. Then it's a quick ride out to the photosphere where the intense glow of the photons create the visual surface of our Sun. Light, resisting all of our Sun's gravitational forces, radiates out into the corona and beyond. Traveling at 186,000 miles per second it makes the 93 million mile journey to our Earth in just 8 minutes to illuminate and nourish our planet with life. It's no surprise that sharing this kind of excitement in our closest star is dynamic.
I have presented at grade schools, workshops (like the Coronado Hands on the Sun workshop), colleges, and local astronomy clubs. I continue to reinvent my approach as this year I've launched "OutReachTour 2k6" with presentations that blend imagery with music and where discovery is woven through the theater and out into the schoolyards. My presentation is unique in that I use musical montages in a well-orchestrated, multimedia presentation to engage audiences. I present this show about every 6 weeks, most recently at 'NEAF" the NorthEast Astronomy Forum in New York.
In "Discovering the Excitement in H-alpha & Calcium K", the audience first explores the history of the telescope along with a series of musical montages and time-lapses that include: a solar eclipse, a solar prominence eruption and a SOHO EIT Movie. Next, we discover how our sun works through fun animations that use "bumper cars" to demonstrate how hydrogen is fused into helium. Next up is a tribute to the late David Lunt, the founder of Coronado Filters (the company that has made solar viewing accessible to thousands of amateurs), Then we get to the real thing, the Sun, as we now explore exciting and interesting images of our closest star captured through my simple telescope setup.
Sharing a glimpse of our Sun through a dedicated Hydrogen-alpha telescope creates memories that last a lifetime. Coronado telescopes has forever changed my view of our universe and I'm grateful.

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.

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Last modification: July 03, 2006
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