Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rainy Sunday Afternoon Street Astro

Nice to hear that my comrades under the sky are having good weather to enjoy and share the universe with. My fall weather continues to be surprisingly astronomy poor but for our region the moisture and clouds are welcome for other things to other folks. I guess I can't hog the climate here all the time. This Sunday afternoon is rainy and windy with snow piling up in the higher elevations. What to do? How about spending sometime planning outreach activities with the new goodies just arrived from my sponsor NASA Night Sky Network/ Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

I am really grateful to be a part of this with all the various resources at my disposal which make sharing the universe easy and fun. Because of the nature of my outreach (street astronomy) I can not use all of what is in each outreach toolkit but each kit has things that I can incorporate right away. But I am looking and thinking about ways to present more of the materials all the time - more on this later. I want the views through the scope to create an air of curiosity for folks to want to learn more. I want the activities to promote a excitement about looking through the scope too. I certainly do not expect each and every visitor to stay "long" (more than just a look) but I have been able to engage folks in such a way were they stay longer than they expect too!

I am really excited about this activity called "The Incredible TWO-INCH UNIVERSE". Here the entire universe is brought down to a simple mind manageable scales. Imagine holding the Sun, Earth & Moon, along with our Solar System in your hand. How about a whole Milky Way galaxy and Andromeda galaxy spaced about a arms distance apart? Or the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 4 miles away which is depicted on the back of the Cosmic Microwave Background pic. Fun stuff here!!!!!!!!
One of the neat things with this activity is that my more studious visitors will be able to take this with home with them to share with others!

Look at what we got here - the new NSN Space Rocks Toolkit and this is gonna be fun. As I mentioned earlier these kits from the network are loaded with creative presentations and activities that astronomy clubs can use in a variety of settings. Several things will be incorporated soon like the Earth/Moon poster comparative. The moon is seen on the lower right and the Earth poster will be (as standard with the NSN posters) a weather proof plastic roll up 1 meter in size! I should have this by next week. Along with this a nifty Solar System Card Sorting Activity seen in the upper right side which folks can do while waiting to look or as part of a presentation. How much fun is this?

But wait there's more!!!!!! Included in the kit is this hands on "Meteorite or MeteorWrong" activity with a flip book to guide! My visitors can now compare earthy stuff to the real stuff that has fallen from the sky above! For the activities to be effective they need to be guided by a knowledgeable other so............

What is as Sidewalk Guy to do? I can juggle a lot on my outings doing presentations, viewings with challenges, and modeling. But if I am going to move to the next level (which is incorporating more of the NSN activities) I will need some help. I want to have a completely separate activity table manned by a capable individual - me or another. I want a lap top or note pad out there with power points to enhance the experience. Is there a person is out there that has passion to reach folks on a personal level, not just share info but make the universe understandable & personal. One who can be patient as folks look through a scope and work through their misconceptions/misunderstandings about the cosmos. One who can handle SUG's high energy output, constant eating of snacks, and endless banter and desire to push the boundaries of street astronomy!



Johany said...


If I lived near you I would have LOVED to help you out by manning the table! It would be such an honor to learn from the SUG himself!!! It would be so much fun helping out with the activities while the folks wait to take a peek at the scope! Plus I would bring awesome snacks...and tea...and hot cocoa with mini marshmellows...and scones, pecan pie (Paulie's favorite), and muffins! Yummy! :)

Don't worry SUG. The right person for the job might even be one of the folks who love to take a peek at your scope! Also, I really think the meteorite or meteor wrong activity is going to be a big hit! The NSN is really hooking you up with so many good stuff! I just wish I was one of those folks going to your outreach to enjoy it!!!

Keep doing a great job at outreach SUG. And please never stop writing about it!!!

Sidewalk Universe said...

Thanks Johany - I really get excited about reaching folks with the cosmos and these kits and other things sent my way only make it more enjoyable.

You may want to check and see if there is a NSN affiliate near you. Just use google and find the network and use the search on the site. I bet there is one nearby and maybe you could link up with. It is easy to present things as the kits have scripts and excellent how to.

It is not how much you know but the enthusiasm and desire to share - a knowledge base can be acquired over time but desire is just there or not!!!!!

Who knows maybe there is another SUG type in the local club.......

Thot Pran said...

Hey there SUG! (That feels kind of funny to type)

Know that if I were still out there you could definitely count on me! Know that I am manning my own table here in Minnesota and always finding inspiration from your sterling example! I love that you are using your time to organize and plan creative outreach endeavors when you can't be observing.

I hope that you find "the one" who would be a good pairing so that you don't burn out trying to do everything you'd like for every pedestrian that happens by.

Keep the faith brother, and know that you have a strong support base with your friends.

Johany said...

Thot Pran,

I see that you're a Deep Space 9 fan! I used to LOVE watching Deep Space 9!!! The Sy-fy channel has changed a whole lot over the years. Are you a fan of the "Stargates?"

SUG,Thot Pran is will find the one! Like I said, it might be one of your regular visitors. Who knows...

Thot Pran said...

Hey Johany!

DS9 is my favorite Trek of all. If you are inclined you can view my collection of screen worn costumes from DS9 at

Sorry to take over your comment section SUG!

Johany said...

Hi Thot Pran,

Your blog is AWESOME! I am officially a follower of your blog! I am astounded by your awesome collection! Nice!!!

My favorite characters on DS9 were always Jadzia Dax (my favorite), Odo and Quark. Quark always had some kind of agenda...very sneaky fellow I remember.

And I loved the episode "Rejoined" with Dax. Sure, it caused some controversy but it was a really good episode!

Are you a fan of the Stargates?

SUG, did you ever watch the Stargate series? If you never did I know you would love has lots of wormholes, galaxies, alien planets, name it they have it!!! Sci-fi is sooooo much fun!

Here is a link by Sky and Telescope that I really enjoyed. It's called
"Stargazing and Science Fiction." The first paragraph is my favorite part of the article. Because that's the reason why I have always loved astronomy...because of my love of science fiction.

Here is the link:

Would love to hear what you think!

Johany said...

Oh, I almost forgot SUG. I know that you get kids that come to your outreach. I found this article that if you wanted to you can print out and give it to the children's parents. It's very informative!

Here is the link:

Sidewalk Universe said...

Take over my comment area and enjoy yourselves!

I never got into any of the StarTrek shows as a adult - not sure why. But I certainly see its effect on our generation!

I do like sci-fi though and as a kid I would read and watch it all the time.

Thanks johany for the links - good stuff! Jim's collection of stuff is really neat especially when he models it!

Sidewalk Universe said...

Hey Johany that was a good read on S&T. Well put and thoughtful insight!!!!!

Paulie said...

Sorry, but I'm diverting the conversation back to the original question posed by SUG. I know firsthand that having a partner helps, though Hillary lacks the background knowledge that I have. She can run the telescopes just fine, but leaves the talking to me. Plus, I don't think she has the confidence to be the center of attention. She's fine around some of the astronomers we know, but a little more shy and reserved than me.

Are you a member of a local astronomy group? Perhaps somebody there would be interested in helping you out? It's a tough sell, astronomy tends to be a lonely hobby. I've met some cool astronomers who enjoy hanging out in public with our scopes, dealing with the lights and such, but I think we are the exception rather than the rule.

What about the guy hanging out at the marina? Perhaps that is his way to get your attention? What about handing out flyers with contact info? Surely you run across people who say, "Oh my friend so and so is into astronomy." Maybe they could pass your information along.

I would be honored to work alongside the famous Sidewalk Universe Guy, but I doubt I'm leaving Northwest Indiana any time soon. I've already learned fro your example. I haven't implemented your observing challenges and modeling, but those ideas are kicking around in my head, and sooner or later they will wind up in my street astro, if for no other reason than I want to challenge myself as much as visitors. I have fun interacting with the public, but I'm starting to feel like my own observing skills have not improved over the summer because I haven't spent the time alone under the stars that I used to.

Are there any colleges in your area? If you can do some observing near campus, you might meet an energetic student, willing to learn, and take on the challenge of sharing astronomy with your audience.

An opportunity will come up for you, Rich. Stay alert, if having an accomplice is something you really want, the right person will come along. You just might have to be able to spot their potential before they know it's there. Good luck.

Sidewalk Universe said...

Thanks Paulie. Those were some good ideas! I have been wanting to hit the local community college with my show just to see what would happen.......

Like you too sometimes my personal observing goes bye bye due to the joy of outreaching!

I am impressed with your zeal and how you take this thing to the literal streets. Your skills have improved and have been sharpened - look at your successful early morning observes as a result of study and effort. You are learning the sky!

It is a unique combo I am looking for - growing astro skill, growing knowledge base, and good with all kinds of people.
I know that all these areas can be developed as I am growing in them too.

You and Hillary are a good team! The fact that she supports you and is engaged with you in this is priceless. Nothing like having your cutie pie nearby sharing your passion......

Paulie said...

Good looking females have a way of attracting attention all on their own!