Celebrate science!

By Phil Plait | September 23, 2009 10:23 am

There are two celebrations of science coming up you might be interested in.

1) Galilean Nights is a worldwide event sponsored by the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The idea is simple; get as many professional and amateur astronomers to show the skies to people from October 22 – 24, 2009. That’s it! Just get people to come outside and look up. You don’t need to be part of an organization to do this either; if you have a ‘scope, then invite your neighbors to check out Jupiter, Albireo, Mizar and Alcor, or M13. If you do participate, make sure to register your event so the folks at IYA can keep track.

2) The Quantum to Cosmos festival is sponsored by Waterloo, Canada’s Perimeter Institute. They want to teach everyone quantum mechanics, an idea I think is great. They have lots of info online, including a couple of cute short movies; Alice and Bob in Wonderland actually looks like it can give kids some good insight into QM. The festival lasts for ten days in October, so check it out!


Comments (12)

  1. Ken

    A few weeks ago a good friend of my wife was visiting from out of state, along with her family. While we sat waiting for our fire to die down to nice hot coals to make smors, I dug out my telescope – a dirty, wobbly Bushnell refractor I picked up at a garage sale and attempted to fix up.

    In spite of the bad scope, I was able to dial in a good image of Jupiter and the Galilean moons (Three cheers for SkyGazer on the ipod, pointed out on this blog a couple months ago – it was cool seeing precisely the same image on the ipod as through the real scope!). We could just barely make out a couple stripes on the planet. The kids enjoyed seeing that, and my wife’s friend was talking about it for weeks!

    So, a little early for the IYA event, but I always enjoy peaking someone’s interest in something new!

    (P.S. I need a decent scope. Anyone have recommendations for a decent telescope for backyard viewing by a relative nOOb? I don’t have much $$ to spend, on the order of a few hundred, and I’d rather spend it on better optics and mount than fancy go-to computers. Alas, there seem to be way too many options! Thx!)

  2. Jardmonkey

    Get a Dob. Orion has many options for Dobsonians that are easy to use and with something like the ipod app you mentioned at your side, with a 6 inch dob you will be looking at all kinds of good things in no time, newb or not.


    Major bang for minor bucks.

  3. Sunny

    Thank Phil for talking about the Quantum to Cosmos Festival. Just some more information for folks out there not able to come to Waterloo – all the lectures will be streamed online live and saved for on demand after the festival – so do check out the outstanding speakers coming. If you’re lucky to get to the event — all tickets are free!

  4. Rob G.

    Hey, Ken. If you want some good information, look for the books Nightwatch (by T. Dickinson) or The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide (by T. Dickinson and A. Dyer). Both are great books (the second one being a lot more detailed) that offer a lot of information to the noob.

    FYI: A few hundred isn’t really going to get you much… the $500 range would be a better benchmark. In this category, one of the ones I’d recommend would be the SLT130 by Celestron. It’s small (so easily portable) and it’s go-to so you won’t waste a bunch of time trying to find stuff.

    Oh, and thanks to Phil for bringing these events to our attention. :)

  5. Roen

    I celebrate science with every breath. I just hope that those who really do have the power will finally take actions on the environment, and allow me to continue to do so.

  6. Jon

    Thanks for pointing out the Galilean Nights thing, I hadn’t seen that before. Maybe I can put my scope in the neighborhood park and see if I can’t get a few of my neighbors interested (too much light pollution for DSO, but good enough for the moon and Jupiter).

    Ken: The first real scope I bought, being a backyard n00b, was a Dobsonian with a go to computer on it. The dobsonian is very easy to use for a newbie (not a complex mount at all). The computer go to is, in my opinon, absolutly essential for city backyard viewing. It’s very hard for me to see the fainter guide stars in order to locate the fainter objects I want (like clusters). The computer has allowed me to see a LOT more then I would without. The Orion 8 inch Intelliscope I got cost around $600. Worth every penny (A non computerized version I think is around $350).

  7. Ken

    Thanks for the recommendations, all!

    Jardmonkey: I’ve been shying away from the Dobs because while it looks like you can get a whole lot of scope for your money, they look big and bulky. Admittedly I’ve never seen one in person, but it doesn’t look like something that I could grab and set outside on a whim, or store easily. Maybe I’m wrong …

    Rob: I’ll look around for Nightwatch. I got B.A.G. from my local library – indeed it is well written and has a ton of detail. I learned a lot of the terminology from it, as well as finally learning how to use an equatorial mount. $500 is about my upper limit; included in that hopefully is some allowance for an extra eyepiece or two, and a couple filters (at least a moon filter and a light pollution filter).

    Jon: I dithered back and forth about whether to consider scopes with go-to or not. I eventually figured given a limited budget I’d probably be better off with more investment in optics. Your point about difficulty finding guide stars in a light-polluted area is something I hadn’t considered; I’ll need to revisit that decision.

  8. Jardmonkey

    Ken- Orion makes table top dobs now! They are like little mini dobs, but still 6 inch aperature. I do have a large dob, and while assembled it’s not light I must admit- you can carry the tube seperately from the base to set it up. Setup is a cinch. Personally I think Dobsonians are awesome for the ease of use and lack of setup time/alignment. Grab and point and go. Bam. Done. They are great for beginners because with a star chart or even better an app like you mentioned for the touch- the whole sky is at your fingertips and you have to learn what you are looking for to point it in the right direction. GOTO is great for sure, but save the money on that, and you can invest in some different eyepieces instead. Go astronomy, yeah!

  9. Sticks

    Has someone set up an event on facebook for the Galilean Nights?

  10. We are celebrating Galilean nights at our local elementary school as a launching party of the new astronomy club. We have a handful of Galileoscopes and binoculars, and several interested adults.

    We’ll be out there every night showing Jupiter to anyone that comes, and recruiting new students.

    Although the bigger scopes are great, we are sticking to binos and lender galileoscopes so that we can teach kids things they can go home and find themselves.

    There’s actually quite a bit you can look at with just a decent pair of binoculars, so while a $500 investment in some Dob is nice, there’s no shame in starting small!


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