Monday, April 26, 2010

Post Astronomy Day Outreach

Saturday was the official Astronomy Day nation wide and the day was clear skies and 70's till 6 p.m when the clouds rolled in. Bust and disappointment for a Saturday night at the movie theater with its throngs. I was really looking forward to this outreach. But Sunday remained relatively clear so off we go energized by a fish taco dinner and a zeal to make up for the previous evening. I will get my Astronomy Day programs in! How can I not be a small part of this national effort in outreach education joining my fellow astronomers in bringing the skies to the public? A gibbous Luna, the Saturn ring and moon show, a Venus Pleiades's dance in the west all need to be shown and discussed. Mars overhead, Castor & Pollux, the Dipper on it's handle, arc to Arcturus & speed to Spica, the Zodiac must be understood and put into context.

Sunday evening was fun and I was not even set up when they arrived to look see and be inspired. I had 60-70 visitors with most having heard about my antics in outreach wanting there own personal view and exposure to the Sidewalk Guy. I had folks from Oregon, Louisiana, California visiting the local area partaking and offering invites for astro intoxication in their of the woods.

I guess it was still Astronomy Day after all!


NOBIAH said...

Here's a site your readers will enjoy!
Take a virtual field trip with MEET ME AT THE CORNER, ( Palomar Observatory for National Astronomy Day.

Join our young host as he learns about the Observatory and the Hubble Telescope.
This site offers links to fun websites including StarChild, NASA for Kids, Astronomy for kids and a link to The Galileoscope™ a high-quality, low-cost telescope kit developed for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 by a team of leading astronomers, optical engineers, and science educators. Kids can see the celestial wonders that Galileo Galilei first glimpsed 400 years ago and that still delight stargazers today. These include lunar craters and mountains, four moons circling Jupiter, the phases of Venus, Saturn's rings, and countless stars invisible to the unaided eye.

Sidewalk Universe said...

Hey NOBIAH thanks for the link! Neat clip of a awesome place.

I had the opportunity a number of years back to meet Scott Kardel. He is the lead outreach person at Palomar and I was impressed with his vision for the program there.

A total dream job for this outreach guy!

Johany said...

Hey SUG,
Love the new look on your blog! NEAF was a lot of fun. I left there with lots of brochures and free magazines. I entered a raffle to win a children's scope for my son but this old lady won it. Hopefully she's giving it to her grandkid!

They had cute activities for children so my son was having a good time. The hubby got to take a close up and personal look at the "astronomy world"!!! All in all, it was a good day!

Sidewalk Universe said...

Glad it was a good experience for you Johany and the family!

How are you coming along on your personal quest across the sky? Let us know when you can!

Paulie said...

I have a few things I'd like your opinion on. I'm still new to sidewalk astronomy, and I have some ideas that I'd like to try, and I'm curious to see if you've ever tried these, and with what degree of success if you have.

My friend Skygazer Tony suggested calling Orion for catalogs to hand out, and said that he's done for people who seem willing to invest in a scope. I havern't done that yet, but I think that I should. I like the idea of a handout, though. and I've printed several copies of some simple naked eye observations to try at home. Problem is (and this is the problem for each of my ideas) is that working alone, it's sometimes hard to keep track of everything I have going on, and my very first priority is to keep my Dobsonian aligned on whatever it is viewing. I haven't passed out very many of my handouts. The other problem with this is that since I'm not a member of an organization, I pay for these myself. It's not a huge expense, but still, I'd rather have a good idea that the time and money I put into it won't jsut go straight in the garbage when as soon as my visitors are out of sight.

I also usually have magazines, star charts, and a lunar map on hand, but they get left in the car because I usually don't have the time to use or explain them. People aren't out there for astronomy, and while they might be inclined to take a look, I sense that they're also ready to get back to what they were doing. I've also hit up the local libraries used book sales for some astronomy related books. They're very cheap, but usually dated. But I figure the basics are a good start for a curious mind, and any star charts in them will still be useful. so far I haven't given away any books, but I did give an old planisphere to some kids who waited quite awhile one night for Saturn to come out from behind the clouds.

My last idea is to run my computer with my Meade Lunar & Planetary Imager. It isn't the greatest system, but I think it would be cool sometime to show the Moon through it, watching on the computer monitor. That way, I could point out lunar features to many people at one time, instead of explaining what they should look for in the eyepiece, and wonder if they are seeing what I want to point out. The two big problems with that are the security and safety of my computer, and I either need a power supply, or will have to stop when the battery dies.

What do you think? Should I just stay with offering telescope views, or should I try to be more ambitious, and turn my public sessions into mini astronomy lessons?

Sidewalk Universe said...

Hey Paulie I may need to answer you in 2 parts as I am not a good typist and it takes me sometime to answer your extended question - I do want to help where I can.

Have a resource table prepared and ready - this is the first thing I set up! 99% of folks will respect your stuff and space. I am very friendly but I am in charge of my stuff and space!

Handouts are great and catalogs for those truly interested too. You want to get in touch with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific asap! Talk to Marni, Ken, or Vivian. Let them know that you know me and share what you are doing. See if you can become part of the NASA Night Sky Network. Support for ya and neat materials to help you educate on a quality level. Check out the web site and facebook for the Network!

I have been doing outreach for years so I have acquired plenty of materials. There are lots of freebies out there - check with the ASP. When I go out I have a defined program in mind and I set my table accordingly.

People need an admission price to look thru your scope. What is that price? A short 5 min lesson! This is what I tell EVERY visitor. This allows me to set the pace, educate, interview, and inform. If not they are free to go and make room for another. Now I get to field their questions, present my theme,which will open up more opportunities to educate. Believe me this works! Again they are in my classroom and I am the boss here, friendly, outgoing, passionate, generous but in charge!

I was at the Apple store yesterday and I want a Ipad for my program and I am thinking of ways to secure it.......

BUT I need to say this and that is that too much stuff can also take away from your program. If it is distracting you from your people/creating stress it is not worth it! Keep it simple....give folks a person touch. Find out what they know/do not know. Get personal!

You ended with a loaded question.....Yes educate with all you have available to you. Remember to add the admission price!

Sidewalk Universe said...

Oh I know folks who have used Imagers etc. OK for large groups but in my personal opinion EVERYONE wants to look through that scope of yours! Nothing beats the eye to the eyepiece. Nothing!!!!!!

Paulie said...

Good answers, and worth a try. I think I enjoy being out on my own rather than with an organization is that I'm free to try whatever I like, find what I'm good at, and figure out what works best. Thanks Richard.

Sidewalk Universe said...

You know Paulie for what ever reason I work better alone too. I have tried to develop and recruit others to join and help. This level of community service involves a certain risk factor and inconvenience. Part of what I am looking for is not just the transfer of information - but a willingness to connect with the folks who stop and inform them in a inquiry sort of way.

What is really fun though is when I have a visitor get so into this that they stay and become a temporary helper and they will encourage others, hand out stuff and help with crowd flow! Neat!

Johany said...

Your outreach programs sound sooooooo much fun!!! I wish I went to one of them!

Paulie, whatever you decide to do, you are going to do a WONDERFUL job! Just the fact that you want to do some outreach like SUG here is such a great thing indeed! People are going to flock to you in droves!

Keep it up!

Sidewalk Universe said...

Hey Johany - yes I think Paulie will have a impact on his community. This street stuff is not a easy thing to do. I hope Paulie will a regular here too in our little community.

Now my blog pal what is happening with your growing astro adventure? When are we going to hear about your constellation programs/outreach? I can see you out there with your laser pointer, star wheels and some of your music playing away in the background with a group of anxious folks wanting to learn how to navigate the sky!

No telescope required for this............just heart!