Picnic on the Green

It was more of an event than I expected, and a much larger crowd. There were two bands, multiple food trucks and stands, performances by a dojo and a hālau, and of course a bunch of telescopes provided by Keck and the West Hawaii Astronomy Club.

Scott in the Sun
Scott showing folks the Sun with a white light solar filter

Maggie , the school librarian had contacted Keck to see if we could provide a speaker and a few telescopes for viewing. Given the telescopes part the request got passed along to me to get the club’s assistance with the telescopes side.

As usual the club members volunteered quickly, no problem getting enough people and telescopes into place to do the event. As long as the weather held over Waikoloa this would be a good event.

With an early start I had come straight from work for this event, and could really use some food. Seeing the Red Barn truck solved that issue, they have a great Reuben sandwich. After setting up the ‘scope I wandered over only to find they were not serving yet. They took my order anyway, and when I went back a sandwich was waiting for me… Thanks!

Norman showed up early as planned, I could turn over the solar rig to him to operate, allowing me to do the talk inside the library. The talk is just a general thing about Keck and what we do, with a Powerpoint that is really just a bunch of pretty pictures of the mauna and telescopes to give some context.

Norman in H-Alpha
The Keck solar rig, H-Alpha scope and spectrograph being run by Norman

Before I get rolling I pause and look at several rows of seven to ten year old faces expectantly staring at me, a few boys but lots of girls. I turn to the adults at the edges of the room and apologize, this talk will be for the kids.

And it is, with enthusiastic questions about telescopes and space. Lots on black holes, space travel, and how we know what we know about the universe. I was not looking forward to the talk when I started, but in the end was really glad I got drafted to do that part.

Eventually I had to ask for one more question as my time ran out, and it was perfect. Why? Because I did not have the answer. It was one of those questions where the best answer is “we don’t know”. An important point in science, we are still learning and still searching for answers, and often the best we can do is to admit we just don’t know.

With the talk over I went back outside to find a big crowd around the telescopes. Several more club members had shown up at sunset to greet a the dark sky. The clouds had mostly cleared out leaving several bright planets and bountiful stars overhead.

Seeing was even worse than usual for Waikoloa, Jupiter a swimming blob in the telescope. Still, make the best of it, put a low magnification eyepiece in and Saturn was a little small, but was still clearly a ball with rings around it.

The event really ended too early, we could have stayed to view longer. The crowd was larger than anyone planned and having a good time on a warm Waikoloa evening. The food vendors were probably glad they came as well, selling out of nearly everything. Red Barn, the sandwich truck ran out of bread!

My thanks to the WHAC members who supported the event… Norman, Scott, Cliff, Donald, Maureen, and Andrew. Plenty of telescopes to handle the lines of folks wanting to see Jupiter and Saturn.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i.

3 thoughts on “Picnic on the Green”

  1. You didn’t tell them the the last little girl told you that Saturn looks like a potato chip! Such cute kids! Thanks for letting us share this great event. – Maureen

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