Public outreach is a fundamental function of the NorthWest Florida Astronomy Association. An article in the January 2011 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine brought to our attention a very successful outreach program started by the New Hampshire Astronomical Society (NHAS). We decided to start a local program modeled on the NHAS program and by the first week of June 2012 we had donated telescopes to 5 local libraries.
The scopes are the same make and model that the NHAS chose; Orion 4.5″ Starblast reflector telescopes. They are mounted on a simple Altitude/Azimuth (Alt/Az) mount making setup and use very simple. Following the NHAS program closely, we have modified the scopes to make them as user friendly as possible. There are now fewer parts to misplace and we have included star charts and an instruction manual. The telescopes are checked out of each library just like you would check out a book.
Each library has been ‘adopted’ by a club member who can be called upon for assistance with their telescope. The club member also agrees to act as an astronomical resource the library may call on.