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Nelson Healthkids Matariki festival

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#1 hamishbarker


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Posted 29 June 2018 - 07:33 AM

Here in New Zealand, the dawn rising of the Pleiades in mid winter has special significance as part of the Maori culture.


I don't want to paraphrase or get things wrong, so go see https://mch.govt.nz/...ritage/matariki if interested.


Anyway, our son's kindergarten has a special evening party every year to mark the event, all the a parents come along and the kids do a performance of some Maori cultur (songs and poi (sort of pompom on a string) twirling and a special dance) and there is special Matariki soup.


Since the event is in any case based on an astronomical event, I thought why not bring the trusty dob (200mm f8) along and maybe a couple of kids and parents might be interested to see something. Of course, the important thing in any outreach astronomy setup is to drop the telescope BEFORE anyone else gets anywhere near it. That way you will be in perfect humour no matter what happens to the gear during the night (kindergarten outreach is I believe not covered under any known astronomical equipment insurance policy outside of direct subscription to Lloyds of London).


Thus, it was completely appropriate for me to knock over the optical tube while closing the back hatch of the van in the car park. And had nothing to do with us being late or rushing to get inside for our son's performance as part of the group. The dob is made of pine boards, galvanised steel tubing and an ugly ebay rack focuser and the telrad finder was fortunately not fitted at the time, so the only damage was temporary dislodgement of the friction-fit spider, which is a classic thin timber shingles and dowel (but the book per John D's pamphlet) affair. A few minutes of eyeballing down the drawtube and puzzling over which of the spider arms I was about to adjust, and it was in "perfect" (ahem) adjustment. hopefully we would see points of light and planetary discs and not bright calligraphic apostrophes when viewing time came. Anyway nobody would be geeky enough to want to see so who cares.


I underestimated the interest, "a wee bit".


The kids' show was delivered with a perfect combination of earnestness, hyperactive energy and enthusiasm. Afterwards I found a spot in the corner of the (sloping, oh darn, didn't bring anything to chock up to level!) kindergarten, well, garten, where I could see both jupiter and venus, and set up the rugged EQ platform rocker box and dob tube, hooking up a USB battery to the fan as the tube had been in a warm car (it's midwinter remember.), then headed back inside for soup.


One of the teachers announced to one or two tables that I had brought the telescope along and that people were welcome to come and have a look. Someone asked if kids could also see. Of course, I said! I headed up the slope to the gear. There were already probably half a dozen people walking up with me, and by the time I had trained the view on jupiter (lots of lights around so I figured go for something bright and easy to recognize) and focused (no I am not that slow), there was quite a line! I don't have an observing chair, so various playground platforms were placed next to the scope to allow little ones to have a comfortable standing eyepiece height.


And everything went well. Some used the focuser as a handle of course, but a quick re-aim and all was go again. I think Io was just peeking out from the edge of the disc. Some noticed the stripes and other moons straight away. Some did not, usually because the planet was no longer in the view at all, so fair enough. Some struggled a bit to put their eye to the right location, others did just fine. There were many, and many parents also. There were goshes and wows and did you build it questions. Lots of fun. I told someone about the little moon called Io just visible at the edge of the disc and how it has lots volcanoes, since volcano building is a popular activity in the sandpit there.


After the supply of young ones had been depleted there were still 8 or 9 adults and a few keen youngsters, so I swung on to Omega Centauri. Despite the nearby hospital lights and imminent rising of the moon, it was still easy to see if a little fainter than on nice dark nights. The first child to look said "there are really a lot of stars there!" and another adult said "wow it's like something you see on TV".


Eventually the moon started to rise so I finished up by dragging the dob a few meters to avoid a blocking tree and aimed on it. "It looks like it has patterns on it" said one little girl.


Home time. No eyepieces rolled away nor did little hands grab the spider. I brought my simple plossl eyepieces rather than risk the ultrawide ones. But everything had gone so smoothly, and everyone who looked seemed to very much appreciate the opportunity that I think I could have brought them without problems.


I wonder if all outreach works as easily and busy and satisfactorily. And people were so keen, I wonder if there would be interest in our little town to build some telescopes. People seemed awfully keen to look.







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#2 seawolfe



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Posted 29 June 2018 - 09:00 AM

Wow!  Thanks, that was so enjoyable to read!  You did a superb job there!  waytogo.gif

#3 robsonian


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Posted 11 July 2018 - 05:13 PM

Hi from Tauranga! Great report, after recently hosting a couple of school groups at our observatory, and using my 8" dob in conjunction with our main scope, I know how great it is to wow them with Jupiter!

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