Friday, April 03, 2009

I helped run a star party tonight!

A local elementary school needed some help tonight. The chap who assists the school with various science activities contacted me through this blog and asked if I could provide a few astronomers with telescopes for a "Saturn Night'. With help from the Austin Astronomy Society, I helped make it happen. We had a good number of volunteers step forward to help out, and in the end about ten folks turned up with scopes in tow.

First, the organizer gave a speech/lecture about Saturn. They also had a small portable planetarium for folks to walk through. They were then directed outside where we waited with our scopes. Like I said, we had about ten scopes or so, ranging from small refractors to a 20" dob! I took my Lightbridge, which generated a lot of interest and provided some nice views of the objects we looked at.

We targeted the Moon first. Plenty of "oohs" and "aahs" could be heard as folks made their way from scope to scope, and there were a ton of questions and comments made about what they could see. We then moved onto Saturn which, despite the so-so seeing conditions, generated a lot of excitement. People were just thrilled! Following that, some of turned towards some of the fainter objects like M42 and M81/M82. Our guests were interested in these objects too. They were equally curious about the scopes and our passion for astronomy. It was nice to chat about the hobby to newbies, and, honestly, nothing beats watching some look at the Moon or Saturn through a telescope for the first time.

All in all, a really good event. The organizer thought only about 70 people would come along, but the other club members and I estimated 150+. It was a great night and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching folks about the night sky. There's another club public outreach event tomorrow that is more in line with the 100 Hours of Astronomy events taking place this weekend around the world. I might go along and help.


Ewan said...

Nice one Phil! Sounds like everyone had a great time. Wish I'd been there!

Jared said...

Did you happen to check out the planetarium? I kept wanting to go see it but at the same time didn't want to leave everything unattended. Sounds pretty cool!

Phil said...

I really was a good night - I enjoy these activities a lot and hope to do more of them.

I didn't get to see the planetarium. Like you, Jared, I didn't want to leave my gear unattended. Probably a good thing though, because of the planetarium was half-way decent I may have wanted to try and buy one! :-)

Pat Hykkonen said...

Star parties are still one of my favorite portions of being an amateur astronomer. Getting to share that "ooh, ahh" moment with the public is GREAT! Glad you're having fun with it as well!

Phil said...

Pat - Nice to hear from you again! Are you still getting out much? Yes, these events are cool and I can see myself getting more involved with them throughout the year.