Fresh on the heals of his previous one-man space show, Pedro Gomes has hosted another Watertown sidewalk astronomy session at the YMCA. His write-up on the event is posted below with a few select snapshots. Many thanks, Pedro!
I brought my telescopes out for another sidewalk astronomy night at the Watertown YMCA on a clear and relatively pleasant Wednesday evening. This is now the second time I have done so at this location and it seems to have caught on with more “customers” this go-around than last. I even had a couple of repeat customers from last month who took it upon themselves to call some friends of their own over to get a look through the telescopes. I would say it is catching on.
The equipment was once again my 150mm Celestron Omni XLT reflector along with my William Optics 80mm ED. However, this time I brought along a few reference materials to help illustrate some points. I brought a laminated mirror-image moon map with all of its features identified and labeled as well as April’s Sky and Telescope issue to talk about some celestial highlights for the month. I felt having the images along helped if they had questions. The moon map was especially helpful as the moon was one of the two targets for the night.
Speaking of which, the targets were very limited that night, as I was sandwiched between two very “noisy” and tall streetlights. I tried to get the Orion Nebula (M42) and the Pleiades (M45) into the mix as well but the streetlights drowned out many of the stars that I use to find the Pleiades, and they also created way too much light pollution for any untrained observer to clearly make out the nebulosity in M42. So, I just stuck with two bright and prominent targets, the Moon and Jupiter.
The “customers” seem to all appreciate the views and I received plenty of “wows” and “shut the front doors” (no, seriously). I noticed that the hardest part was getting the first two or three people over but once they agreed to take a peek, other people would slow down and wait for an invite over. I have to admit if you are not familiar with astronomy gear it can be quite an intimidating sight. One person even thought I was the local news station.
I was kept pretty busy from dusk until about 10PM when I finally called it a night. I did find it a bit challenging to operate two scopes while also trying to provide some sort of quick-bite facts and information about what they would be observing through the scopes. The good part was that the night flew by but the down side was that I found myself with little time to offer any real insight into any particular topic. However, I felt that it was still a bit too cold for people to want to stick around and chat, so this wasn’t a real issue at that moment.
All in all, it was a successful night that even received another solicitation for an astronomy session by the head of 4-H Camp Wabasso. He seemed extremely interested in putting something together for the kids in the camp that would allow them to get a little bit of instruction and then put that instruction into practice with a nighttime observing session.
There was no better way to end the night. It was not only engaging and educational but the fact that someone else could sense the enthusiasm I had for the stars and for passing along that knowledge and passion really validated the effort for me. And in the end isn’t reaching young and enthusiastic minds the reason we stand out there and point people to the stars?