Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Halloween outreach!

I have been wanting for some time to do an outreach program during Halloween and have posted about the idea on several internet sites. For years, however, I was stymied by having small kids who wanted to go trick-or-treating and I had to drive them around.

Then last year I picked the prime street corner of the biggest housing development to set up my scope in, It was the perfect spot, lots of kids & foot traffic, and a house on the corner had a large, level grassy yard with good access to the sky.

The lady of the house met me at the door with 2 growling dogs and said an emphatic "NO!" to my request to set up a scope in her yard on Halloween night. Go figure! As a result, I had to choose a different neighborhood and got one with little foot traffic. I did manage to show comet Holmes to a couple dozen people, though, so it wasn't a complete wash.

This year (2008) I was told that I had to stay home because the older daughter wanted to host a Halloween party/bonfire. I was a little disappointed, but managed to be philosophical about it all, considering my lack of a huge success the year before. Besides that, the bonfire parties we host are a ton of fun and not to be missed!

Then just a couple days before Halloween my wife informed me that there hadn't been enough planning and preparation for the bonfire party, and that the event was not going to happen. Also both daughters would be going to sleepovers that night, in the very same housing development I had targeted the year before for outreach. Thus I was free to try my hand yet again at Halloween outreach. Yay!

This time I vowed not to sequester myself in a remote neighborhood, but instead I set up on the street in the preferred, high-traffic neighborhood a few doors down from the "NO!" lady. I arrived early and got a prime parking spot and set up my scope right behind my truck. After a minute or so, somebody parked right behind me, so I rolled forward a few feet and had a nice space to put my scope.


I did a cursory compass-assisted alignment of the Atlas mount on my 10" reflector, which was an adequate alignment, saved me time and got me up & running quickly.


I had a large bowl of candy on a chair next to the scope and called out stuff like "I have candy and the planet Jupiter over here" as kids & families walked by on the street.


Altogether I showed Jupiter to about 100 people, of whom maybe 2 had looked through a telescope before.

I did get some white face paint on my favorite Nagler 22's rubber eyecup courtesy of Dracula:


but that's a small price to pay. I made sure to have a scrap of paper in my pocket with the names of the Jovian moons and did my "Europa has a sea of liquid water under 5 kilometers of ice" spiel over and over! I was in outreach heaven! If you like talking to kids about the wonders of the universe you should try it yourself next year!


Nicole said...

Oh wow, what a great idea! Glad you had good weather for it.

Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum said...

Yeah, this was something I wanted to do for several years and this year it happened! Toward the end of the evening the ages of the visitors went up, but all were glad to have a look through the scope!

NiteSkyGirl said...

WOW WHAT A nice thing to read ! I really enjoyed that.
I really believe and blog about it on getting out there
and observing the night sky ..so many discoveries await . a whole new universe as a great hobby .

woah no pun intended lol!!

John Kramer said...

Yep, more amateur astronomers should try this, its a great idea. I'm surprised you used your Televue eyepieces, I would caution others to use their more economical eyepieces so that makeup and masks don't leave unwanted residue on your premium eyepieces.