To Texas, and Home Again

Pamela L. GayLet me just say, I’m always looking for a good reason to go to Texas and especially the Houston area. My entire trip last week was wonderful, and the dessert in San Antonio was a special treat. After going to see Lucy Friday, Saturday was spent lazing around San Antonio’s river walk and then attending a San Antonio Astronomical Association Star Party at the Scobee Planetarium, which is next to, and much smaller than, the Temple Beth-El dome. (This led to a moment of confusion.) Once there, however, the large parking lot filled with telescopes told us we were in the right place.

There were roughly 20 scopes of all types and sizes spread out with knowledgeable owners eager to explain their gear and point at a suggested object. I got to see a couple new systems I hadn’t met in person before, and I saw an open cluster I hadn’t seen before as well. I also had the pleasure of confusing some people who thought I was a local student (I was in an Astronomy Cast T-Shirt with my hair in a pony tail). I love getting mistaken for a student now and then. And it was in those moments when they thought I was a student that many members of the club proved themselves to be really good with the public. They offered to let me try their telescope controls, explained to me how I could use averted eyes to see fainter objects, and made sure I saw all 5 of Saturn’s moons. This was the nice, friendly, “just taking care of you” type of mentoring that I always hope to see.

What was particularly cool was the plethora of small running children that scampered in all directions at high velocities. It was reported that one kid actually went through the legs of a tripod as he hurled him self from eyepiece A to eyepiece B. Over the course of the evening, several 100 members of their public – children and teens making up a large fraction – filtered through the parking lot of scopes. At one point, the line from a large telescope stretched at least 100 ft, as people waited to peer through the retractor at Saturn.

As things quieted, I had a chance to sit back and talk with many of the club members. They are involved in the Night Sky Network. They are thinking about the International Year of Astronomy. One of their members took the time to talk to me at length about his experience working with the Columbia Disaster investigation (and I plan to do a interview with him to get more information).

Meeting with and talking with these people was a wonderful experience. If any of you are in the San Antonio area, check out their program of events and go out and look up.

Epilogue:
Sunday I slept in, got a last wonderful taste of sushi and then headed to the airport. The flight home was a bit eventful – They had to remove part of the wing on my flight to DFW, and they initially planned to just leave that piece off! They ended up replacing it instead, which was better then leaving it off, but still. Eek!

Now that I’m home, I’m working my way through a backlog of 100+ emails that need responses and I’m trying to complete a bunch or paperwork to prepare for the St Louis AAS meeting May 31 – June 4. There is a weekend workshop open to the educators, amateur astronomers, and other people interested in doing astronomy EPO. If you are free those days, please consider attending!

This week I’m going to work to keep getting out new LPSC results and audio. I hope to be done by Sunday. Thanks everyone for coming along for the ride.

4 Comments

  1. jsb16.cc March 20, 2008 at 1:50 pm #

    I wish I was going to AAS. I trying to pitch an astronomy elective to my supervisor (who is already an astronomy nut). We have one astronomy elective, but it’s geared to students who are very cmfortable with algebra, and I know a significant fraction of our students are totally uncomfortable with algebra. But they light up like novae when we talk about the space program and astronomy in physics class.

  2. Helio Huet March 20, 2008 at 5:39 pm #

    It was sure a grand treat to have you at the “Saturn Night Live” event! No doubt, your presence was causal to the night sky’s wonderful clarity, which ended the next day.

    There were 28 telescopes at the event, one short of the 29 record.

    Y’all come back now, here!

  3. Matthew R. March 20, 2008 at 6:31 pm #

    Thanks for coming out. I made a video of the event it can be seen on http://www.youtube.com

    Here is the URL: http://youtube.com/watch?v=YszBeZfOGkk

    The part at the end is of SNL.

  4. Vagueofgodalming March 20, 2008 at 8:42 pm #

    Ooh, thanks for the tip-off – I will be visiting San Antonio in about a month’s time. I’ll keep an eye on the AAAS program (though I’m long past the stage of being mistaken for a student).

Leave a Reply