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Thread: Favorite outreach moments

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    Default Favorite outreach moments



    Greg's recent thread: How far can you see? got me thinking about some of the fun experiences I've had with outreach through the years. All of us enjoy our hobby, and those of us who do outreach love to share that passion with others.

    Unless you're at a club-members-only star party, the chances are great that the people looking through your telescope will have no clue what they are looking at. You become their "expert" in all things even remotely space or astronomy related. Questions such as "How powerful is your telescope?", "Have you ever seen aliens with that thing?", and "Ooh! That's pretty! How far away is it?" are commonplace. Sometimes, the questions seem endless, but there's almost always that one person who shows a spark of interest and genuine curiosity that makes everything else worthwhile.

    So, what's your favorite outreach memory? Was it a question you were asked? Was it something that happened?

    I have a lot of great outreach memories. One of them that comes to mind is a couple of years ago a couple of friends and I had set up telescopes in a park, and people were wandering by and taking a quick look through the telescopes. I was showing off a crescent Venus at the time when a little girl steps up to my telescope. She looks through the eyepiece and I explain to her that she is looking at the planet Venus. She says, "Oh pretty!" and then runs off to find her parents. A few minutes later, she's back with her dog. She picks up the dog and puts his face next to the eyepiece for a few seconds and tells him, "Look! It's another planet!" and then sets the bewildered puppy down again.

    You gotta love a person who gets excited and wants to share her experience with her friends, even if they are pets. I had to wipe the dog hair off my eyepiece, but it was a small price to pay.

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    Default Re: Favorite outreach moments

    I've not done a whole lot of outreach myself, but the one thing that sticks out the most in my mind actually involves my extended family.

    A couple of years ago I made plans to head to to my aunt's farm (dark site) for some observing. Other family members got wind of this and made inquiries, and it turned into an outreach event with several cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, etc.

    On the appointed day I arrived well before dark and got my gear setup. Other family members arrived shortly afterwards. I had about 20-25 people altogether, all of which had zero or very limited astronomy experience.

    This became quite obvious as these most excellent and esteemed people brought out their camp chairs and arranged them in a half circle somewhat away from the scope as if they were preparing to watch a fireworks display.

    Turned into an great evening with awesome questions asked and lot's of good observing and wow moments.

    But I never will forget all those expectant faces sitting in their half circle watching me "light the fuse".
    Bryan

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    Default Re: Favorite outreach moments

    Yea like I said in the other thread "You must have a powerfull telescope" is an oft heard phrase. I just smile.

    "How many X is it" is another. 'It depends'... blah blah blah

    I actually kind of dread these questions because I know there is no straight forward 'layman' type answer.
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    Default Re: Favorite outreach moments

    Quote Originally Posted by bladekeeper View Post
    On the appointed day I arrived well before dark and got my gear setup. Other family members arrived shortly afterwards. I had about 20-25 people altogether, all of which had zero or very limited astronomy experience. This became quite obvious as these most excellent and esteemed people brought out their camp chairs and arranged them in a half circle somewhat away from the scope as if they were preparing to watch a fireworks display.

    Turned into an great evening with awesome questions asked and lot's of good observing and wow moments.

    But I never will forget all those expectant faces sitting in their half circle watching me "light the fuse".
    That's actually not a bad idea, as it beats standing in line waiting for your turn to look through the eyepiece. You should tell them, "I don't make the show, I just let you watch it."


    Quote Originally Posted by UlteriorModem View Post
    I actually kind of dread these questions because I know there is no straight forward 'layman' type answer.
    I try to plan what I want to show people in advance. Usually, there will only be a handful of objects bright enough and dazzling enough to hold anyone's interest. I will then do a bit of research and try to come up with a couple of factoids about each object: how far away it is, how many stars are in the cluster, etc. A trivia fact or two doesn't hurt either, such as "If you're a Star Trek fan, this star system is where Capt. Kirk almost got killed by a giant lizard man." People can relate to stuff like that and it makes the object (and the evening) more memorable.

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    Default Re: Favorite outreach moments

    Usually, I take the 8" Newt or the C8 amd the AR102, set the small one on the moon with medium magnification, tell them to look first into that one and then .. go to the larger telescope for the same view @ max mag (of course, the image is not great at 200+ X, but who cares? it is outreach) and I get a lot of WOW!'s and ooohs and aaahs and a few OMG!'s
    Favorite moment? When someone goes from "I don't see anything!" to suddenly seeing the craters, their face expressions are priceless

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    Default Re: Favorite outreach moments

    Quote Originally Posted by nicoyenny View Post
    Usually, I take the 8" Newt or the C8 amd the AR102, set the small one on the moon with medium magnification, tell them to look first into that one and then .. go to the larger telescope for the same view @ max mag (of course, the image is not great at 200+ X, but who cares? it is outreach) and I get a lot of WOW!'s and ooohs and aaahs and a few OMG!'s
    Favorite moment? When someone goes from "I don't see anything!" to suddenly seeing the craters, their face expressions are priceless
    That's great! If you really want to mess with their heads, put a high-magnification eyepiece in the AR102 and put a low-power eyepiece in the 8".

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    Default Re: Favorite outreach moments

    That's great! If you really want to mess with their heads, put a high-magnification eyepiece in the AR102 and put a low-power eyepiece in the 8".
    Perhaps THAT explains why AR102's are out of stock
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    Default Re: Favorite outreach moments

    One of my favs happened last year at the Queensland Astrofest here in Australia.

    I started the peeking through the EP with Omega Centauri, rabbiting on about it. When the time to change object came about, an EVIL thought occured to me when I decided upon the target

    I WASN'T GOING TO TELL THEM WHAT THE NEXT TARGET WAS! Instead, THEY would discover it for themselves!!!

    Then a wonderful thing happened. As each person peared into the EP, all intrigued by what awaited them, the penny quickly dropped at what it was they were looking at. Yet for all the exclamations of surprise, shock and awe, no one spilt the beans on what it was they saw, even when they came away from the EP. They ALL let the next person experience the discovery for themselves!

    It was a wonderful piece of cheek on my part for sure. But this object requires NO introduction, no description and no naming. It is the most recognizable thing in the sky, yet as it requires a scope to see it, no one ever forgets their first view of it. And their first view is always with a gasp!

    Think you know what it was they were looking at? If not, you're just going to have to wait for your turn at the eyepiece...

    Alex
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    Default Re: Favorite outreach moments

    What a great story, Alex, and a cool way to do outreach.

    I'm pretty sure I know what you showed them and I may have to try that myself next time.

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    Default Re: Favorite outreach moments

    I did an outreach in the class room with some 9 year old kids. Got all the usual questions until one little girl - Shirley Temple had nothing on this kid - Asked me what was stopping Saturn from falling through the rings. Inside I am busting a gut at how funny that was, while keeping a straight face and trying to describe gravity in a way she would understand

    Same session - Kid hits me with top shelf super research question about the internal resonance between the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt. I begged of and suggested that was a little beyond my knowledge. Later I was telling the Education officer of the NSWAS. He asked me the boys name. Turns out his father is a professional astronomer in Australia, and obviously primed his boy to stump me

    Good times!!!
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