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General Astronomy >> Outreach

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Paraclete
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Reged: 01/15/11

Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers?
      #5547936 - 11/30/12 09:51 PM

I don't do a lot of outreach, but I figure you guys must have some great stories.

I once heard a guy scream at the top of his lungs when he first saw M13 through an 11" SCT under dark skies. (edit - actually that was me! )

Any really memorable reactions from first-timers at public outreach events?


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ages0ne
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Reged: 10/29/10

Loc: CO, USA
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Paraclete]
      #5547985 - 11/30/12 10:32 PM

i'll never forget the father that invited us kids on the block to check out Jupiter roughly 25 yrs ago!

& last week, i asked my friends' kids if they wanted to look at the Moon. (especially since they were wearing me out with kick-ball!) Their response was... "It's right there" (while pointing out East) i said, 'but do you wanna see her through a telescope?' They were unsure, but needed a break also, so said "SURE!"

I run home, grab me setup... find a chair they could stand on, (not knowing if angles would match their smaller stature). and as they got views of Mare & craters littering la Luna's surface... to see their jaws drop with awe, and how they had to catch their breath... nearly brought tears to me eyes, thinking i was back in time asking... "Is THAT really Jupiter?!"


--reached


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David PavlichAdministrator
Transmographied
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Reged: 05/18/05

Loc: Mandeville, LA USA
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: ages0ne]
      #5548020 - 11/30/12 11:05 PM

This is one that many have probably had, but the first outreach I was at when Saturn was up, I had a 12" Meade R on a CGE. I had to slew the scope around so that I could prove to a lady that insisted that I had a picture of Saturn on the front of the scope. It was a day of good seeing and with the good optics of the R and a 13 Nagler T6, Saturn was gorgeous. And it was at a stage that the rings were tilted fairly steeply.

David


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k9yr
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Reged: 05/21/08

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Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: David Pavlich]
      #5548661 - 12/01/12 11:59 AM

Same as David, we had had several people think Saturn was a photo in front of the telescope. A good time was had by all

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MikeBOKC
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Reged: 05/10/10

Loc: Oklahoma City, OK
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: k9yr]
      #5548733 - 12/01/12 12:41 PM

My favorite all time reaction was when I showed a boy about 7 or 8 the beautiful double star Rasalgethi. He called to his parents to "come look at wrestle spaghetti!"

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Mr Onions
Two Time International Photographical Competition Winner
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Reged: 04/14/07

Loc: Newcastle upon Tyne.
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: MikeBOKC]
      #5549033 - 12/01/12 04:09 PM

I'm just back from outreach at the Sage,Gateshead.
About 60-70 people had a look at Jupiter throught the 80mm at 80x { 6mm setting on the zoom }it was -2C so only stayed out for 90 mins.
My best rest reaction was a lady about a month ago who said she was "Dumbfounded" she was looking at a very low moon with the tiny WOZS66,so it just goes to show you don't need the big guns under dark skies to really make peoples day/night


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Skylook123
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Loc: Tucson, AZ
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Mr Onions]
      #5549200 - 12/01/12 06:30 PM

Any night we have Saturn available with a very large crowd, we almost always see a visitor wipe away a tear with the first look at it.

As the Milky Way rises at June sessions at the Grand Canyon Star Party, many of the visitors will start to head out thinking clouds are rolling in. And more than one of the astronomers thinks so, too.

An email I got two years ago after GCSP:

"We just returned from a trip to Arizona, and while there, visited The Grand Canyon. We were
lucky enough to end up there during your Star Party Week. After hearing my three girls (14, 17
& 19) talk about this for days, I decided to hunt down some sort of contact info just so I could
express our gratitude to your group for such a wonderful opportunity.

After seeing Saturn, my 14 year old said " I can cross that off my bucket list now ". All three
have been telling their friends all about this and I'm sure will remember this trip always
because of this one night.

On our first night back to our friend's house in Phoenix, we all reclined on the pool chairs and I
heard "there's Vega… I see the North Star.... I see The Scorpion…. Saturn is over there...etc."
Please extend a Thank you to your volunteers from the XXXX Family, Bowling Green,
Kentucky."

One visitor left a note at Ranger Headquarters saying that seeing the supernova in M51 as "a life changing experience."

This year, thw wife of one of our astronomers heard a child in a departing family say, "This is awesome! It’s better than TV! Mommy, why don’t we watch THIS instead of TV?”

About five years ago, the sun had set but astronomical twilight was setting in. I was using Vega as one of my alignment stars with the 18", about a two step climb at the time. A Japanese tour group of young adults came up. As I was pointed to Vega, one of the young ladies kept saying she needed to see the ring star. So, I let her climb up and look at Vega. She had a huge grin and almost tears as she came down the ladder, and the only English she was saying was "ring, ring". So, I guessed about where The Ring Nebula was near Vega, and moved over to it and had her look. That really got her into tears. Then she pointed at an engagement ring on her left ring finger. The English speakers in her group said that her fiance had proposed to her and given her the ring that morning, followed shortly by news that his father had passed away in Japan so he had left the tour to return home. One of the last things he said to her before he left was to have one of us show her The Ring Nebula, so she could feel him being there. Wow. Not a dry eye in the group around us.

The very next person in line was an older Hopi woman, very elegant looking who also climbed the ladder to look at Vega in the twilight. As she looked, she proceeded to tell how when they were young children, the elders trained them in the sky and then dropped them off down on the Colorado River and they had to find their way back by certain stars that would point to hidden water and edible plants. Then the group of youth had two days to make it back on their own to the village on the top of the Grand Canyon. Those two events over about 45 minutes were two of the most moving events I've ever had.

One last one comes to mind. Two years ago one of my granddaughters was running the 18" on The Ring while I was doing a constellation tour for the GCSP visitors. While she was doing the talking at the front of the line, I went to the back and was telling the same stellar evolution story, and where all the elements come from. There was a child about six years old in the group, and I asked if he wanted to touch a piece of a star. He nodded shyly. I asked him to lift up his hand and grab some air. I told him, that was once inside a star as it ended its existence. He pulled down his fist and stared at it, opened it up slowly, and tossed it in the air like a butterfly.

You can't buy these experiences!


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kfiscus
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 07/09/12

Loc: Albert Lea, MN, USA
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Skylook123]
      #5549246 - 12/01/12 06:53 PM

I had a young boy react with so much joy when he first saw Saturn through my 10" that he brought ME to tears. The crowd around us shared the emotion. I was retelling this story a year later at the same outreach event and some of the same people recalled that great little guy's gasp!

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BarbMoore
sage
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Reged: 05/11/09

Loc: South central New Mexico
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: kfiscus]
      #5549740 - 12/02/12 02:12 AM

That was my first reaction with Saturn too. Odd that so many people think it's a photo glued to the end of the scope.

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StarStuff1
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Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: BarbMoore]
      #5550085 - 12/02/12 10:17 AM

Soon after we formed our astro club I organized a fund raiser at the local fair. It was at an opportune time in the Fall. Clear air. Saturn, Juptiter and a first quarter Moon were well placed. We set up three scopes, one for each target. We charged 25cents per look. One high school student took a long look at the Moon through my 8-in f/6 dob. She said "That's fake." I asked why she thought that. "Because it's backwards." I tried to explain to her how a reflecting telescopes work. She was still convinced the Moon's image was fake. I offered to show her Jupiter or Saturn at no extra charge. She shook her head and said "No, you are not going to fool me a second time." and stomped off.

Many others to tell but most of them are very much like the previous posters have discussed.


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Mr Onions
Two Time International Photographical Competition Winner
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Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: StarStuff1]
      #5550531 - 12/02/12 03:23 PM

Great feedback there,Jim.

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Skylook123
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Reged: 04/30/05

Loc: Tucson, AZ
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Mr Onions]
      #5551058 - 12/02/12 09:09 PM

Quote:

Great feedback there,Jim.




Thank you, sincerely. Outreach is what now drives my astronomy. I've seen all the things I care to see, many times over, so I do virtually all of my observing through other people's eyes at my scopes. One can get great reactions by gently asking, "What do you see?" It seems to open the communications pipeline, and I learn new ways of seeing old friends in the sky.


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Skylook123
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Loc: Tucson, AZ
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: StarStuff1]
      #5551079 - 12/02/12 09:18 PM

Quote:

Soon after we formed our astro club I organized a fund raiser at the local fair. It was at an opportune time in the Fall. Clear air. Saturn, Juptiter and a first quarter Moon were well placed. We set up three scopes, one for each target. We charged 25cents per look. One high school student took a long look at the Moon through my 8-in f/6 dob. She said "That's fake." I asked why she thought that. "Because it's backwards." I tried to explain to her how a reflecting telescopes work. She was still convinced the Moon's image was fake. I offered to show her Jupiter or Saturn at no extra charge. She shook her head and said "No, you are not going to fool me a second time." and stomped off.

Many others to tell but most of them are very much like the previous posters have discussed.




Had that happen more than once.

Last year, at the Grand Canyon Star Party, the wind was a bit too strong to use the 18" truss dob. I was in the theater with the sunset talk. When I came out, my wife, always the high school science teacher, had the dob down low and was showing the crowd of about 20 or 30 how it worked. She had one person stand a bit away from the front of the secondary cage with a red flashlight under the chin, and another look through the focuser hole at the secondary mirror. It really taught image flips. She let about fifty people do the experiment, first with the red flashlight, then looking in the focuser while the next person held the flashlight. Kids had a lot of fun with it.


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Skylook123
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Loc: Tucson, AZ
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Skylook123]
      #5551104 - 12/02/12 09:32 PM

One very hot night at GCSP, I had a crowd of about 30 at the big dob. Everyone was dressed in T-shirts, shorts, and sandals. I was on The Ring, which, at that time of night, was a flat footed stand for most of the visitors. Up comes a young woman dressed in ethereal black, a black lace dress down nearly to her ankles and a black lacy shawl over her shoulders. As she looked into the eyepiece, she asked: "Do you believe in angels?" Oh Oh, where are we going. Really perked up the crowd. I said something like, There are a lot of things in the universe I don't know about, so I keep an open mind. Then she said, "Astronauts have seen angels on the way to the Moon." So I said I'd heard and read some of the astronauts' reports of unexplained visions. She looked back at The Ring for a bit, then walked away muttering "I KNOW there are angels. I KNOW there are angels." As she disappeard from sight, from the silent crowd of about 30 I heard a voice do the Twilight Zone theme, "DOO DEE DOO DOO, DOO DEE DOO DOO." The crowd roared.

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Pharquart
sage
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Reged: 11/11/09

Loc: Southwest Minneapolis Metro
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Skylook123]
      #5551124 - 12/02/12 09:45 PM

I have enough first timers and small kids look through my scope that sometimes the focus gets knocked a bit. I use my finderscope to make sure my Dob is still pointed right, so I don't often look through the main eyepiece, so I don't always know when it's out of focus. I wonder sometimes how many people have looked at a blurry view of the moon without knowing it's supposed to be better.

One lady, obviously a first time viewer, spent about 30 seconds absolutely still with her eye right up to the eyepiece. Thinking something got misaligned or out of focus, I asked her if she could see the moon, or if the focus needed to be adjusted. She pulled back from the eyepiece with a wide-eyed look of absolute awe and astonishment. In a breathy voice of wonder, she said something like "that was incredible!" and continued on down the sidewalk in a bit of a trance.

It's reactions like hers that keep me doing outreach!

Brian


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Skylook123
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Reged: 04/30/05

Loc: Tucson, AZ
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Pharquart]
      #5551263 - 12/02/12 11:20 PM

One night at GCSP it was my wife's first year using the 10" SCT on the Atlas mount. Although she taught astronomy for many years, she had/has a retina defect that does not allow her to focus objects in the eyepiece at night except bright planets and double stars. So the usual process was I aligned the scope for latitude and magnetically during the daylight, put the scope on a planet at sundown, went over to my 18", and it usually worked out. One night she said she wanted to try the Ring Nebula, since Venus was pretty boring that night. So, I decided to do a full alignment so I could hop to some better sights for her with it as well. I did the first star, then moved over to Vega and defocused it to make it easier to center. A wind gust blew the dob around, so ran over to it and had a couple of visitor so I showed something or other, but noticed Susan was showing something. I thought she'd heard me say to press Enter and then go to the Ring since she knows the hand controller. I heard lots of raves coming from the 10" crowd. With a gap in my crowd, I went over to the 10" to check on The Ring. Yep, there was defocused Vega. Then I heard a couple walking away saying, "Best Ring view I've ever seen." Susan had thought I said I was finished and she showed defocused Vega to about 10 or 15 visitors as The Ring. It looked like the Ring should in her defective vision. I finished the alignment, hopped over to The Ring, Susan looked at the view and said, "Can I go back to the other Ring? Visitors liked it better"

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csrlice12
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Skylook123]
      #5551685 - 12/03/12 09:01 AM

Moral of the story: When you run out of stickers, just defocus Vega....

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StarStuff1
Post Laureate
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Reged: 04/01/07

Loc: South of the Mason-Dixon Line
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: csrlice12]
      #5551730 - 12/03/12 09:39 AM

This reminds me of another one. Years ago I was dating a nice young woman. She was having a birthday party at her house and invited many of her friends almost non of whom I had met. Alcohol was served and the party was getting a little loud. In my car was a new Comet Catcher on a mount. I decided to set the scope up and entertain the crowd with a view of a coupls DSOs. Between the light pollution and the guests polllution no one was impressed, most making comments like "I can't see anything" or "Is that all there is to this?".

Next I did a bad thing. When no one was looking I swung the scope to a streelight down the block and de-focused the image. I called out to the party animals "Hey, you guys want to see a bright new comet just discovered?" This time "WOW!s" and "Unbeliveable". I was the hit of the party.

I waited a day or two to tell my girlfriend the truth. Needless to say she wasn't my girlfriend much longer.


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csrlice12
Postmaster
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: StarStuff1]
      #5551746 - 12/03/12 09:53 AM

What did you name the comet?

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Coolkid70
super member


Reged: 04/19/11

Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: csrlice12]
      #5551994 - 12/03/12 12:45 PM

Quote:

What did you name the comet?




Perhaps after an ex?


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Lynnblac
super member
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Reged: 04/06/09

Loc: Arizona
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Skylook123]
      #5552040 - 12/03/12 01:17 PM Attachment (85 downloads)

This is what outreach is all about.

As told by Mike Wiles. a volunteer at GCSP North Rim.
"The first night of the star party a dad came up to me with his 8 year old daughter very late in the night and asked if I'd show her a galaxy because she had never seen one before. I gladly accommodated her and she begged her father to bring her back the next day even though they were supposed to leave. When the next night came...she appeared in line - literally jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect. A few others and myself spent the night showing her all kinds of things. This letter was found attached to one of our cars at the end of the night. Her dad also communicated to one of the guys in our group that her mother had died three years ago and that this was the first time he'd really seen her come out of her shell in the time that has passed since. This was the first of several times during the week that I got all sniffly and had to think of happy things like rainbow colored puppies to keep the water works from firing up on me."

Also:
The family made reservation, on the spot, for 2013 GCSP.

Edited by Lynnblac (12/03/12 02:45 PM)


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killdabuddha
Pooh-Bah
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Reged: 08/26/11

Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Lynnblac]
      #5552055 - 12/03/12 01:32 PM

"Out of the mouths of babes..."

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StarStuff1
Post Laureate
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Loc: South of the Mason-Dixon Line
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Coolkid70]
      #5552148 - 12/03/12 02:26 PM

Comet Sovaporlit. It might have been a Russian discovery.



(Sodium Vapor Light)

Edited by StarStuff1 (12/04/12 11:08 AM)


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tezster
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 07/14/09

Loc: Missisauga, Canada
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: StarStuff1]
      #5552502 - 12/03/12 05:49 PM

My most memorable experience comes not from my club's regular outreach activities, but rather while observing on my patio late one evening. Perhaps because it was unexpected.

There was a group of teenage boys loitering around the sidewalk, being a tad loud, obnoxious, with every other word of their conversation consisting of profanity - typical teenagers, I suppose.

Stargazing appeared to be the last thing on their minds, when one of them approached me and asked what I was looking at.

"The Moon", I told him. "Did you want to take a look?"

I guided him to look through the eyepiece once he got to my scope. He bent down, took a peek, his jaws dropped to the floor and shouted "HOLY &*#$%^$%$#$!"

He proceeded to wave his friends over in a very animated fashion "Yo! Yo! You guys gotta come and see this!"

So I shared the views with them all, but that first boy that looked through the scope was simply bubbling with uncontainable excitement and enthusiasm through it all, wanting to know what all the "stuff" he seeing actually were.

"I can see volcanoes!" (I think he meant the craters). So I gave him a quick rundown on the major features, the lunar seas, while he was there.

Soon after, a car came to pick them up (which they were obviously waiting for). The last thing he said to me before he left was "that is the most amazing thing I have ever seen."



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Skylook123
Postmaster
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Loc: Tucson, AZ
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: tezster]
      #5552909 - 12/03/12 09:41 PM

Thanks for that, Lynn. Like I said, these experiences you just can't buy.

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aezoss
super member


Reged: 03/27/11

Loc: The Great White North
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Paraclete]
      #5553228 - 12/04/12 01:28 AM

Outreach isn't my thing but I had a cool experience on the front lawn Jan 30 this year. The kids had gone inside after checking out crescent Venus with our 127mm Mak. A girl in her early twenties bounded out of her vehicle and asked what I was up to.

Venus descending into the trees wasn't much to look at and the seeing wasn't kind to Jupiter, but Rima Hyginus at 187x was incredible, it's the best view of the first quarter moon I've had. There was a surreal sense of depth to the feature. She was captivated.

Brief but rewarding. Hyginus hasn't looked as good since. Apparently my scope operates 10x better in the presence of a pretty girl

Lee


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trw
member


Reged: 07/28/09

Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: aezoss]
      #5553959 - 12/04/12 01:09 PM

Over the years I have had a lot of great responses from folks at outreach events. But to keep it in perspective, once I was showing the moon to a very young girl from rural southern Ohio. She took a long look, during which time I was developing warm fuzzy feelings about what a wonderful person I was for giving her this opportunity. Then, she turned away from the telescope, looked up at me with bright blue eyes and said, "Gaw#$^mmit, I cain't see sh^t!"

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Doc Willie
Carpal Tunnel
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Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: trw]
      #5555991 - 12/05/12 04:56 PM

I was out viewing on a friends property where there is often a lot going on. One night a few twenty-somethings came by. One of them stayed quite a while, and I showed him a number of things. As he left, he said "I learned more tonight than I did in two semesters of astronomy in college."

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Skylook123
Postmaster
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Reged: 04/30/05

Loc: Tucson, AZ
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Doc Willie]
      #5556643 - 12/05/12 11:12 PM

You opened his window. Good job.

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csrlice12
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Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Skylook123]
      #5557379 - 12/06/12 11:52 AM

That's the difference between book learning and experience....regardless of the field....

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Mr Onions
Two Time International Photographical Competition Winner
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Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: csrlice12]
      #5592236 - 12/28/12 07:59 AM

Terrance,that's was a wonderful story.
Great to hear.


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shrevestan
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 04/19/12

Loc: Shreveport, LA
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Mr Onions]
      #5593598 - 12/29/12 12:00 AM

Great stories! Thanks for sharing. I always love reading these.

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///^**^\\\
member


Reged: 12/25/10

Loc: Deep Dark Blackness of central...
Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: shrevestan]
      #5624407 - 01/15/13 01:26 PM

My favorite of the first timer reactions is that little snap back of the head, like a double take. Then comes the verbal reaction of WOW! or a soft quizical Holy Sh$t. At that point they settle thier eye back into the eyepiece. Then you tell them to try the focuser and you get that " oh yeah thats better." Then the questions come.

When a first timer displays that little head snap it is most certainly a sign of being subtly blown away.

Being amazed and/or observing people being amazed is amazing.

The fact that in todays hyper-in your face, commercial, video media obsessed society. That simply looking through some glass up into the night sky can cause an involantary physical response of amazement. This point is especially amazing.

So what kind of magic 100 or 200 years ago astronomy must have been for someone to point to a bright light in the night sky then allow you to look through the magic tube and see the rings of Saturn.


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Doug Reilly
professor emeritus
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Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Skylook123]
      #5626051 - 01/16/13 11:47 AM

Jim and everyone else too...

Great experiences and stories here! This is one of my favorite forums about astronomy because of stories like this, and I'm with Jim, outreach has become the best part of astronomy for me, though I still enjoy the solitary observing I sometimes can squeeze in.

Among my favorite reactions from doing public outreach have been profanity. Then I know people are starting to truly grasp something that they can't articulate...

I wrote a piece about that on my blog...I won't copy it here since it has profanity in it. But here's the link, and please heed the warning that the language is colorful, but absolutely accurate to what people have said at my eyepiece. I like doing outreach the most with people who otherwise would never have the chance to look through a telescope.

Lucky for us (I guess) that's just about everyone.

Here's the link: http://bicycleastronomy.org/2009/03/03/hello-world/

(It's also the kickoff piece to my blog punkastronomy, which has now morphed into Bicycle Astronomy as I have melded bike and telescope to create a mobile micro star party.


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csrlice12
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Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Doug Reilly]
      #5626532 - 01/16/13 04:31 PM

Liked John Dobson's comment about "You weren't born in New York, you were born into a universe"

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GeneT
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Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: Paraclete]
      #5637592 - 01/22/13 07:26 PM

We went into an area of San Antonio our club members thought would be dangerous. We set up around a lake encircled by a walking path. Moms and dads were walking with their children. We had about 5 telescopes set up. One by one the families stopped by. They were the nicest people imaginable. One young man had tattoos over most of his body. He spent several minutes at each telescope, and asked a lot of questions. Before he left, he went by, shook everyone's hands, and thanked us. Several people asked us when we would return. Lessons learned: the stars speak to all people, young and old, rich or poor; and, be careful about making generalizations about people.

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tecmageModerator
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Re: Memorable outreach reactions from first-timers? new [Re: GeneT]
      #5640447 - 01/24/13 11:12 AM

Doug, that was an excellent, excellent piece!

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