Friday, January 14, 2011

Sidewalk astronomy

Tonight was "Aerospace Night" for the elementary school club - Aerospace Adventurers - that I help out with. They had all sorts of stuff in the gym - boomerangs, robots, space suits, and more. Patrick McConnell form CATO came down and brought some of his rockets to show the kids. I did too, though I broke a fin on the Sudden Mach. There were also some incredible paintings from a sidewalk artist in Brooklyn - he creates these incredible drawings of alien planets and landscapes, in just ten minutes, using spray cans and a few basic scraping tools.

There was a representative there from the Aldrich Astronomical Society there; he had a number of impressive meteorite samples. He decided not to bring a telescope because the weather wasn't too great up in Worcester. I volunteered to bring my 8" scope down; I live only five minutes away and I figured it was about time I actually got any use out of it.

I set it up around 7:10; I quickly had a steady stream of kids and their parents, and a handful of passerby who were at the school for unrelated reasons. Altogether, I probably had about 80 people in 80 minutes, all of whom saw the moon, Jupiter and its four largest moons, or both. The seeing wasn't great, but you could still see lots of detail on the moon and some belts on Jupiter. Many were quite wowed by the sights.

It was really neat; I'd never showed people astronomical objects en masse before. Just seeing Jupiter - a billion miles away - floored some people, especially when I pointed it out in the sky. It felt really good, and it warmed even my cold black hole of a heart.

It was about the only thing that warmed me, too. It was twelve degrees out (-11 C), and I was outside for seventy-eight of eighty consecutive minutes, in a winter coat and jeans. Thank goodness for ski gloves. (It took an hour afterwards for my toes to be back to normal, though.)

And it prompted an impromptu Taco Bell run with mandachan (my lovely assistant and fellow geek <3 ). Always fun.

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