Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quickie Off the Cuff Lunar Street Astro

Normally July is written off by me for any street astro programs due to the heat of the late afternoon/early evening and the unstable weather conditions such as t-storms and then the local brush fires they can create. Sometimes too fires elsewhere can send huge clouds of ash and smoke into our meadow and really foul any chance of viewing. This July is cooler than normal and drier if that is possible here in this high desert area. Last evening was just awesome with light breezes and a rapidly dropping temperature. I was in my backyard enjoying dinner and a bino survey of a wonderful gibbous moon and the thought came to me : get out and share it! Just then my phone rang and there was Mr.Drive By from his western NY location out and about enjoying views of the lunar south polar region. Well after some quick banter and exchange of text messages I was in the garage loading up my wheels with my outreach gear with a lunar mission in mind to share with the walking public at the Marina. These spur of the moment outings either go really well or really poor - which will it be? When I'm hurried to get out I will sometimes forget something - what will be be this time?

On my drive over to the park I'm kicking myself for not getting out earlier, waiting on Ma Nature to be more favorable to me, wondering what I might have forgotten all the time surveying Luna on my transit thinking about key lunar landforms to show. When I arrive the first two spots I picked to set up where unavailable due to the parking areas being full - RATS! I wanted to try two different than locations due to the amount of folks at the park this evening so it was back to my "normal" location on the east end of the park. Low and behold a perfect parking space is open just for me and I start too unload my wears and to get this program off and running.

What did I leave at home? Well five things in my rush to get out the door:
  • My camera is sitting on my computer work station. I though it was in my resource materials bin. OK no pics tonight but I sure like to have them of some of the nice people I meet.
  • Light shield for the telescope on the shelf in the garage. OK not too bad being as this is a moon program.
  • Plastic delivery case to support C8's power supply and inverter. I do not like my power supply getting dirty on the ground. OK lets use my step stool to hold these. Parents you will have to lift your kids tonight to the eyepiece!
  • Laminated lunar and phase cycle posters - I use these a lot. OK I will make due with just one of my large format astronomy atlases and no resource table setup. Tonight it will be just the scope with Mr.SUG providing the verbal commentary and my guest holding the atlas !
C8 is up and running and people start to gather - large gatherings of 10 -15 at a time. "Hey we've heard about you!" " Are you that guy everyone is talking about down here ? " or " The park rangers said to look for you !" or " I want to see the moon dude!" and "Where have you been I need my astronomy fix!" On and on it went for the next 3.5 hours with lunar terminator views, southern curvature, Copernicus & Eratosthenes sunrise stealing the wow's for the evening. Dressed in my cotton khaki shorts, Old Navy t-shirt, and sandals I am starting to get cold as our high desert terrain cools off. What else did I forget?

  • Did not consider the more August like conditions so the SUG is starting to chill in the cool of the 10pm evening with the wind starting to pick up. Great for walking, running, and biking but not for a lightly dressed SUG attempting to show off the sky. Light layers rule the evening here as do cotton slacks, a hat, and a lite fleece.
  • My power snack. Yes this guy must take in calories to maintain his energy level. My bucket is starting to empty a bit but the visitors just keep coming. I must press on to complete my mission.
I had a fun night and so did many others I spite of my rush and last minute preparations . My finale people count was around 70 plus. Out of this crowd there were 10 or so who have experienced the power of street astro views before and were looking for more. If I had not been at my normal location and made the effort to get out they would have missed this evenings show. For me I would have missed the encouragement that they gave and sincere gratitude they expressed to me which makes all of this so worthwhile. Missed too would have been the looks and expressions of excitement from a bunch of sidewalk astro newbies - newly infected with the astronomy bug that must be satisfied from time to time!


Paulie said...

It sounds like you had one of my rushed impromptu sessions! I think rushing out at the last minute Saturday turned out to be a good thing, since after my initial flurry of folks, it let me just go where the night led me.

I found out Tuesday night that I'm really going to have to adopt your usual strategy when I know I'm going to deal with a large crowd. There was just a little too much chaos around my telescopes to take chances like that again.

I'm not as famous as SUG yet, but I've had a few people recognize me around town as "the telescope guy." Always gets a smile out of me. :)

Sidewalk Universe said...

Hey Paulie your reputation will go far and wide up and down the streets of Valpo! You are doing a good thing, and having fun with it. Keep it up and it is sure fun to read about how things are progressing forward!

Nice that you are so portable! When I'm set up that's it for the night either good or bad! I love my resource table and all the stuff that goes on it. But I am looking for a used portable scope(one that tracks) and may do some "light" sessions elsewhere ie just the scope, picture book atlas, and me with my paper bag of snacks.

Drive-by Astronomy said...

Paulie... No one is as famous as the SUG. We can only hope to attain is notoriety.
Keep up the good work

Drive-by Astronomy said...

Hey Comrade SUG. This is Kim from North Korea. Sorry I couldn't get down to the Marina. The people love you here.
Would you like to come here and ...Stay! No really you could leave whenever you want.
Fellow Astronomy Buff
Kim Jong-il

Sidewalk Universe said... (Dear Leader), glad you find the time to follow my exploits with your busy life controlling every movement and thought of so many million people. I am sure you have named a sky pattern after yourself in the Northern sky so it may be seen everyday all the year!

I bet your country has really dark skies even in the cities due to the lack of public utilities/service. Yes your land is a worker's paradise and astronomers dream!

Lets converse more in the future!

Drive-by Astronomy said...

How about that... Kim left a comment. SUG even had whacko world leaders following him. Who's next Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...? Yes Kim must have some really dark skies!

Phil said...

Great write-up! The "power snack" is always important and I think a fair few folks forget this. My eyepiece box usually has a Mars bar or similar in it's own special cutout! ;-)

Sidewalk Universe said...

Now that is preparation Phil! A baggy or lunch sack is my usual.

Hope your having fun under the skies and your pic taking is coming a long. Any outreach on your part? We have been invited to DPR/N.Korea to share the sky. What if I do not see the Dear Leader in the stars?

Drive-by Astronomy said...

Kim Jong-il you crack me up. You just cant stop posting, but then again who can resist the very affable SUG!

Paulie said...

Phil: Mars bars! I love it! At my first sidewalk event I was giving away Milky Way bars and Star Bursts.

Sidewalk Universe said...

Mr.IL is gone........

Paulie is the candy man!!!!!!!