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!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ladies At the Eyepiece

Our weather continues relatively mild for this time of year so I was able to squeeze in two programs on Saturday and Sunday night with long lines and a obvious Ecliptic convict lineup for a personal booking and capture. "What is going on ?", "Is this normal?", "Is that a constellation?" were just some of the questions coming my way. All in all I had over 120 visitors over the two programs but what was important to me was the quality of observations and insight gained by these three ladies who had no prior telescope viewing experience and a relatively small exposure to astronomy.

Esmeralda came by with her family early on and had the first look on Saturday night. Full of life and excited to learn this youngster devoured Saturn, it's moons, ring shadow, and banding with hardly a sweat! Oh to have young eyes! Besides this her encouragement to her younger brother was impressive as she motivated him to make the same observations. When it came time for modeling and discussion she was right in the mix. A pleasure to be around this young girl's desire to learn and encourage others was a joy to behold.

Somethings are just meant to happen. Kathy was my last visitor on Saturday night. She works in the medical field and is a very educated person with a appreciation for the forces of nature that shape our world and universe. Not ever having time on a scope before she had C8's optics all to her self as she surveyed Saturn, double stars, and star clusters, enjoyed a personal constellation tour and picking out fine details along the way. Not only this she had a low horizon view of a rising Jupiter in our eastern skies. Obviously moved by it all her "nature bucket" was filled to the brim - for now!

Angela was engaged in her evening workout and was stopped dead in her tracks when she came upon the Sidewalk Guy on Sunday. What is going on here that one in the middle of a brisk pace, high heart rate, focused workout would stop to inquire? Maybe it was the crowd around the resource table listening to SUG banter about Saturn? How about C8's mature orange/grey good looks? Whatever it was the brakes were applied hard, eye glued to the scope, and the gears of her imagination began to turn as she saw sights never seen before. In a nut shell she was speechless, moved, and on her cell phone sharing her experience with friends. A work out of the observational kind ensued with Saturnine details falling to her gaze. Impressed with the faint moons on Saturn's sides she imagined a 3-D view and had a opportunity to explore a world that is far removed from us.

Thank you ladies for making my efforts so worthwhile!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Before It Gets Too Hot Street Astro

Time to get out this post Fourth of July evening with its cooler than normal temps, breezes, walkers, runners, strollers, bikers, boarders, dogs, skaters, lovers, enemies, families and friends. Hardly set up and a crowd gathered many of which heard about this astronomy guy with his scope and flair for the dramatic. Yes he is for real and everything you have heard is true! One kind lady said " my friend spent sometime with you awhile back and said you made astronomy so much fun and easy to understand - can you do the same for me?" This was a great way to start the evening!
Ashley and her mom Diane had a post 4th blast. Not only did they nail the Saturn Challenge when wind gusts picked up for a short while but get up close and personal with a bunch of the double stars which populate our skies this time of year. Both picked out the subtle colors and magnitude differences with ease.

It is never too late to try something new and gain a unique experience to tell others about. Cris here had a blast with Saturn and all the stellar gems I was able to show off. The Sidewalk Guy's laser Star Comparative opened her eyes and mind to the science of stars, and how their appearance in our skies have influenced culture, faith, and philosophy. So much to this astronomy stuff for anyone who is curious. Cris works with a retirement community and commented that "my seniors would love this!" And to that I said "lets do it!"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Astro Workout Street Astronomy

End of June. Usually the weather is very toasty along with unstable sky
and high winds. But like most things this year with no normalcy we have a cooler than normal pattern hanging around so here I be with the show of shows to show off to a stellar show malnourished citizenry of my northern NV community. OK get out while the going is good for it could be weeks before I'm able to again! I had plenty of folks stopping by to enjoy the busy ecliptic show; constellations, bright guide stars, and planets. But this trio (L-R) of Wade, Bobby, and Fred made a stop to their vigorous workout routine to participate in something new - willfully submitting themselves to a street astronomy immersion that required some critical and abstract thought, patient observation, and at times a healthy guess! This astro workout challenged all kinds of things and added a little bit of wonder to their lives. Those smiles are the real deal!