It will soon be time to head for Hilo to enjoy AstroDay 2013! This year AstroDay will be May 4th, join us at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo for a celebration of astronomy and culture. The Mauna Kea observatories will fill the mall with exhibits, activities and entertainment. The action will run from 10am to 4pm. And yes, Keck will have a booth this year, with real exhibits!
I suppose I should do a write-up of Keck Week. It has been a week since the event wound down. But… That was a massive whirlwind of activity, way too much to do, I am just now exiting decompression mode.
I am not the only one attempting to recover. I stopped by Debbie Goodwin’s office Monday. Her desk is piled with follow-up work, her usually neat office a bit of a wreck. The same story everywhere around headquarters, the remains of open house litter the complex, slowly disappearing as folks clean up and put away. At least the conference room had tables and chairs for Tuesday’s AO Team meeting.
We are still awaiting the numbers, visitors to open house, donations, etc. But even without data I think we can call the event a total success. It was huge in any case, turnout for open house was somewhere in the 1,500 to 2,000 visitor range as expected. What I do know was the reaction I got as I walked about the events.. A lot of happy folks! Everyone was having a good time.The two West Hawaii Astronomy Club exhibits were a mixed success, not through any fault of the club. The solar viewing was completely wiped out by the Waimea weather, not just the usual misty clouds, but pouring rain. To the success side, the Telescope Shoppe worked well, as I hoped it gave our club members something to talk about, a hook to draw in the visitor. The display of small, amateur instruments looked pretty good, everything from some of my binoculars on a parallelogram mount to Tony’s 12.5″ Obsession dob. A pair of Orion 8″ dobs gave us a ‘scope to point to for budget minded folks, an iOptron cube and a Meade 8″ LX-90 represented some GoTo options. This is an activity I highly recommend to anyone hosting a similar event. The rain did little to dampen the crowds every part of the complex was crowded. The other Operations Department exhibits were quite popular… David was playing with liquid nitrogen in the courtyard, exploding bottles, freezing bananas, making ice cream. In the electronics lab there were flashers to solder, small circuit boards with LED’s and a battery allowing folks to try their hand with a soldering iron. In the shop we had a hydraulic press stamping keychains. Kids pumping a lever to create the fifteen tons of pressure needed to emboss the Keck hexagons into brass.
It is a lot of fun, and a lot of work. It is a real treat for the community. With the enormous effort we will not be doing this every year. The last open house was three years ago, it will probably be that long before we do it again.
Date: Sunday, March 17
Showtime: 7:00 pm, Free and Open to the Public
Location: Kahilu Theatre
Join us for a wonderful screening of this classic film hosted by Artist Jon Lomberg who will share about how he and Carl Sagan collaborated for 25 years on projects including COSMOS, the Voyager Golden Record, and the film Conact, in production at the time of Sagan’s death in 1996. Lomberg is also developer of the Big Island’s Galaxy Garden.
Beer and wine available for sale at event. Not just any beer either, but Big Island Brewhaus brews!
I think we are ready. It has been a frantic scramble, it should be a good time!
Presenting the wonders of the night sky to the general public can be a rewarding experience. The smile on a child’s eyes they first time the see the rings of Saturn or the craters of The Moon is a truly a wonderful thing.Public observing can also be a daunting challenge to the inexperienced public presenter. A little preparation and thought can prevent a lot of trouble and make it a better experience for both the presenter and the public.
I am attempting to put down a few of the things I have learned in over a decade of hauling a telescope around. In that time I have used countless schoolyards as observatories, set my gear up at posh resorts, on the tee line of a driving range, outside the front door of Wal-Mart, across the fence from cows at a dude ranch, parking lots, city sidewalks and grassy lawns, under conditions both perfect and absolutely lousy for doing astronomy. Dealt with everything from drunks to two year olds, and I still do this regularly… It is worth every young smile!
It is just two weeks away!
All the planning does seem to be coming together thanks to the hard work of some of our Keck staff. It should be a great event for all!
For information just go to the W. M. Keck Observatory website.
With an upcoming open house, everyone around the observatory is frantically trying to get everything in place. There will be all manner of science exhibits throughout the observatory headquarters complex. Exhibits about our research, controlling the telescopes, an IR camera display (Get your portrait in IR!), liquid nitrogen ice-cream, just a lot of fun.I am coordinating an exhibit we named Optics Lab… As you would expect, most of the exhibits in our area teach basic optics, light, lenses, etc. Understanding light and optics is a basic skill in a large observatory. We will have a few lenses on rails, a laser ray-trace table with acrylic lenses, an exhibit on polarization, and even a simple laser interferometer.
When attempting to teach something, a little eye-candy is helpful to catch the attention of the audience, particularly kids. Our group includes a laser engineer and a laser tech, so the use of lasers was obvious. There is little that catches the eyes of a kid faster than a bright laser beam. One of the first ideas they tossed on the table was a laser spirograph. After a few moments thought the answer was clear… I can build that!Time to dig about in the scrap box! Actually more than a few boxes in my case, I am a bit of an electronics pack rat. A green laser module… Check! Small DC motors… Check! A few voltage regulators… Check! A couple potentiometers… Check! First surface mirrors… Check! In an hour of rummaging about I quickly located everything that was needed.
A line of big telescopes greeted the crowd. Mike had his 20″, Cliff his 24″, my 18″ Deep Violet, later in the evening Olivier set up his 18″ Priscilla. All of this large glass was open to the public, we each had long line of folks waiting a turn at the eyepiece. It was a huge Saturday night crowd, several hundred people awaited darkness. Yes, I had made the decision to observe from the VIS, knowing that there would be a crowd, but wow!Lots of folks wondered why there were so many telescopes. Over and over we explained that they were lucky, having chosen the right night to visit the mountain. A Saturday night close to the new moon, with local amateurs bringing their own telescopes to share.
Showpiece objects, the Andromeda Galaxy, The Pleiades and Jupiter were available for viewing. I was stuck on the Orion Nebula all evening long. I changed targets once, to meet a chorus of request to move back to the nebula. I have to admit it was a pretty view, even to me, who has seen this sight more times than I remember. I put the 35mm eyepiece in place, creating a bright low power view that had visitors waiting through line a few times for second and third looks.
In addition to the big dobs there were quite a few smaller ‘scopes present. Maureen had her C-11 setup, Larry brought his nice Stellarvue 102mm refractor, Mike had an 8″ SCT beside his 20″ for use by a friend. Dan didn’t bring a ‘scope, but he did bring pizza! We met Woody, an Alaskan Airlines pilot flying the Anchorage to Kona run. Out of a couple carry-on sized bags he produced more telescope than we would have thought fit in airline luggage…. A neat collapsible pier arrangement with an alt-az mount and a very nice WO 110mm APO.