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.

Sunshine at the Zoo

The Southern Cross Astronomical Society (SCAS) has been offering safe solar viewing to the public at Miami Metro Zoo for the last 20 years, though it has offered solar viewing for over 50 years. It began at the Zoo in 1986 when Southern Cross astronomers spread their wings and established a higher visibility that reflected the growing talent and expertise of many of its members.

Duke Dayton (physics/astronomy faculty member of Miami-Dade College) and Mike Moony (who worked at the US Naval Observatory- Richmond Station) ran a solar observing program from the roof observatory on the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium for many years.

In 1986 we left the Museum and needed to setup observing sites. Several SCAS people worked with the Dade County parks system to open up night viewing at Bill Sadowski Park and Nature Center. Then we decided to set up public solar observing at Metro Zoo. The reasoning was that those interested in astronomy would find us no matter where we set up, but the Zoo would provide a lot of foot traffic. People who normally wouldn't seek out astronomy would be exposed to it. Once they saw what amateurs could do, they too might be hooked or at least enjoy a new experience. The board agreed and the Zoo was happy to have us there.
Sunday mornings were set for SCAS safe solar viewing at Metro zoo all year. Hundreds of visitors were attracted to the C-8 telescope each Sunday to view the exploding prominences on the solar surface. Demos illustrating the danger of unprotected solar viewing always makes a lasting impression on parents and youngsters. We found that a magnifying glass and a piece of wood makes for a great demo.
We use the Big C-14 for special occasions and get an even bigger crowd. Many are speechless at the startling views of continual explosions leaping thousands of miles off the solar surface. Most of the visitors to the Zoo have never seen the Sun through a Hydrogen Alpha filter. Lester says that he always get a kick out of the first time they actually see the sun. You hear them saying, " I don't see a thing," followed by a "WOW: I can't believe that!" He has also have a video in which he shows them the sun with a black dot representing Earth. It never fails to get a reaction like "That is how small the Earth is compared to the sun? I can't believe we are that small and insignificant." Lester likes giving them a SOHO sticker so they can go home and view the sun online too.
SCAS also offers safe solar viewing at special events sponsored by Metro Zoo such as the Annual Halloween Metro Boo weekend, Astronomy Day at the Museum of Science and a special set up linking another telescope with a large TV monitor in the Museum lobby as part of the SCAS indoor exhibits.

SCAS is often invited to give presentations or provide solar viewing by schools, Scout weekend jamborees, the Annual Earth Day Celebration, events at nearby Florida International University, and the two-day Annual Ramble at the famous Fairchild Botanic Garden . . . and the invitations continue to grow.

SCAS now uses a new, lighter, portable Solarscope with Coronado lenses for community outreach. SCAS President, Lester Shalloway, M.D. successfully continues to excite the public with spectacular views of live solar power. The Southern Cross Astronomical Society of Miami, Florida continues to "Bring Astronomy To You" since it was founded in 1922. SCAS Hotline: 305-661-1375. (

So who would have thought that a Zoo setting would be aptly suited to engaging the public in solar viewing? SCAS did.

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: May 22, 2006
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