Archive for GAM

30 Nights of StarPeace in NZ

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , , , on May 2, 2011 by astronomymike

New Zealand was one of the last countries in the world this year to hold its StarPeace event, and what a night we had!!!

Members of the Levin Stargazers, Sharing Space and StarWalker set up 2 telescopes, cameras and a webcast laptop right in the heart of the busiest downtown area of our capital city, Wellington, and wowed the crowds with spectacular views of Saturn. It was an utterly incredible night, and one I will personally never forget. There’s nothing like a crowd to draw a bigger crowd, and we had a constant stream of people lining up to have a look and, by the end of the night, around 500 people had stopped for a chat and a view of what is undoubtedly the public’s favorite planet.

The reactions and comments from people were priceless, and are the main reason why we keep doing what we are doing. The comments ranged from the simple “Wow!” to “Oh my God! Are you serious?!!!” and many other, sometimes expletive-laden, reactions. I lost count of the number of people who thought we were tricking them by sticking a photo in the eyepiece! Some couldn’t believe that we would just bring our scopes into town for people to look through for FREE!!! But every one of them was very grateful that we did, and I even had one man comment that “this alone made my trip into the city worthwhile!”. One of the nearby cafe’s even brought us out free drinks of hot chocolate for our efforts, which was very much appreciated!

We were kept busy on the telescopes all night, but did manage to get a few words in with China and Sri Lanka (Thilina!!!) via webcast. When the lines of people waiting started to get smaller, in true John Dobson style we would just call people over as they were passing by, and every one of them left with a smile on their face.

Many thanks to Paul Moss, Maria Heidemann (the StarWalker team) and Ray for the photos, webcast and video (see below). The other members of our team included Mike White (me), Mike Stapel and Ron Fisher. Looking forward to our next guerilla astronomy mission!

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Levin Stargazers & Foxton Beach Astro Society (NZ) Kick Off GAM 2010

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , , on April 11, 2010 by astronomymike

Sometimes the weather gods smile upon you, and last night was one of those evenings when they are not just smiling but grinning from ear to ear! What a fantastic night to kick off GAM for Levin Stargazers and Foxton Beach Astronomical Society, who combined forces to host our first GAM event, the “Telescope Hunt”. Admittedly, not as exciting as the name may suggest, but the idea was for the public to “hunt out” their old telescopes and bring them along for some pointers on how to use them and how to find good stuff in the sky to point them at, with a star party to follow.

As it turned out, only one family in Levin must have a telescope they don’t know how to use! In the picture below, you can just see the tripod leg and me showing them how to set it up.

Assembling a small telescope

Assembling a small telescope

However, about 20 members of the public joined us and the green laser pointers from our club members were soon flashing around the sky as we showed them where some of the best stuff was hiding. The young boy on the left in the photo above (it was his telescope I was assembling) even had a turn with my laser pointer and happily showed his sister and others the Southern Cross (Crux) and how to find the south celestial pole (SCP) after I had showed him only once!

Show me the Southern Cross young man

Show me the Southern Cross young man

Following the laser show we had a number of telescopes set up and showed many spectacular objects in our sky – the globular clusters 47 Tucanae and Omega Centauri, Eta Carina nebula, Great Orion nebula (of course!), Mars and Saturn to name a few. The seeing was so steady that even at 240x, Saturn was as steady as a rock and looked spectacular in the eyepiece, much to the delight of many! Here’s a selection of images from the event, and we look forward to our really big event on April 23, the “Worlds’ Largest Star Party II”, a follow-on from last years 100HA event where we had around 1000 people looking through telescopes in about 3 hours!

 Homemade dobsonian

Homemade dobsonian

Members setting up

Members setting up

Setting up a newtonian

Setting up a newtonian

Talking with the public

Talking with the public

Sharing a moment of fun

Sharing a moment of fun

The youngsters love it

The youngsters love it

Young girl lining up the next target

Young girl lining up the next target

Paul lines the refractor up

Paul lines the refractor up

Global Astronomy Month is coming!

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , , , , on March 12, 2010 by astronomymike
Global Astronomy Month logo

Global Astronomy Month logo

It’s nearly here people! April is Global Astronomy Month and it’s rolling around faster than you can say “Global Astronomy Month”!

Amateur astronomers, societies and groups worldwide are hard at work to bring some exciting astronomy events to a place near you, and the Astronomers Without Borders global team have been busy preparing global events that anyone from around the world can participate in, even some that you can do from home without a telescope! It’s going to be an action-packed month, but how can you be a part of all the excitement?

Firstly, keep an eye on your local newspapers and one ear on the radio for announcements on events that are being organised in your area. If you see or hear nothing, contact an astronomy club or group in your area to find out what they are doing for Global Astronomy Month. Secondly, you can search for events in your area on the Find Events webpage or check out what the Astronomers Without Borders team have prepared for you on the Global Programs webpage.

Some of the online global events on offer include:-

  • Living Legend Series – online live interviews with some of the most influential astronomers of our time.
  • Is Anybody Out There? – watch a planet outside our solar system dim the light of its parent star!
  • Write Your Name in the Sky! – hunt for asteroids in real time online and you might even get to name your own discovery!

If you are already an amateur astronomer or belong to an astronomy group/club and have not planned anything yet for Global Astronomy Month, it’s not too late!!! Have a look at the Program Ideas webpage and get creative! When you have decided on your events, register them online on the Register Events webpage, so everyone will know about it and people in your area can find it.

C’mon everyone, let’s be a part of something really big and very, very special!

Clear skies to all!
– Mike

How do you top IYA2009?

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , , , , , on February 1, 2010 by astronomymike

By all accounts, the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) was an outstanding worldwide success, with many hundreds of thousands of people looking through telescopes and being introduced to astronomy than ever before. In particular, the IYA2009 cornerstone project “100 Hours of Astronomy” (100HA) was the biggest global astronomy outreach event ever held.

I was one of those who truly took an interest in the subject early in 2009 and fell in love with the sky through being involved in the IYA2009 activities. In fact, the Levin Stargazers astronomy club that I joined hosted a hugely successful public star party as part of the 100HA events in April 2009, which led to us more than doubling our membership overnight and receiving an award from the IYA2009 organisers plus a SkyScout from one of the major sponsors, Celestron! It was incredibly rewarding to be involved in and to see the wonder and excitement (especially the kids) when people got to see the skies through our telescopes.

So now that 2009 is over, how do we keep that enthusiasm and public interest going? How can we possibly top that? Well, the Astronomers Without Borders group (who co-organized the 100HA events) may well have the answer – Global Astronomy Month (GAM)!

Global Astronomy Month logo
(Pictured above is the new Global Astronomy Month (GAM) logo based on an original concept by Azhy Hasan (Iraq) and was created by Jessi Kingan (USA/Thailand) with significant input from many AWB leaders from around the world.)

GAM aims to once again bring together amateur and professional astronomers from all over the globe to share the wonders of our sky in our communities, reinforcing the AWB motto “One People, One Sky”. But this is not just going to be a repeat of the 100HA project, oh no…this event (or series of events actually) will run for the entire month of April 2010, not just 100 hours! That is a HUGE challenge, and they will need everyone’s commitment to make it succeed. They are putting together a list of “Project Ideas” to be posted on the GAM website to give other individuals/groups some inspiration for what they can do in their own communities. If you are on Facebook, you can contribute your ideas on the Global Astronomy Month 2010 page, or for large projects email directly to “info at gam-awb dot org”. Put your thinking caps on people!

Clear skies!
– Mike