Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sidewalk Astronomy at The Mall

The mall I work at participated in Earth Hour by turning off all non-essential lighting between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm Saturday March 28th. I was approached by our local Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Centre, which btw I am a proud member of, to see if they could set up some scopes at the mall during Earth Hour.

I thought to myself, what a great idea, celebrate 2 things at once, Earth Hour and the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

It is the goal of the IYA 2009 to show 10 million people their first look through an astronomical telescope, they figure if 100,000 amateur observers each show 100 people their first look at the heavens through an astronomical telescope, they will make their goal. What better way to reach my 100 then a trip to the mall with my scope.

Well the response was more then we could have hoped for, from the time we set our scopes up at 8:20 pm to the time we shut down at 9:40 pm, it was non stop action. We had 3 scopes set up, 2 further down from me showing the beautiful crescent moon, and me at the main entrance showing Saturn. The thrill of seeing people's reaction at their first view of Saturn through a telescope never gets old. Words like "unbelievable", "cool", "unreal" were spoken by everyone.

A dad was lifting his son up to the eyepiece to look at Saturn, when the kid saw it he shouted and kicked his dad in the leg, well not exactly, but close to, if you get my meaning, the father almost dropped the kid, good thing he didn't, man that had lawsuit written all over it.

This whole experience got me thinking, watching the line build, people, after viewing Saturn yelling to the people at the end of the line,"It's worth the wait", over hearing people talking to other people in person and on their cells about the experience they just had and to come and see for themselves, it made me think , there is a real interest in the night sky, maybe one of these kids will go on to be an astronomer or science guy, not because of what I personally did, but the fact that a scope was there at the right time.

I know the effect the first look through a telescope had on me, except for one person that night, it was every one's first time. My hat goes off to our local RASC , taking time out of their busy schedules to do this on a regular basis.

The security team had one of our security cameras pointed at the main entrance way, never can be too secure, just in case someone was to knock me out and steal my 82 lb scope and tripod and run through the dark parking lot and try to squeeze it into their car, hey better safe then sorry.

Anyways I copied a little bit of that time to give you an idea what it looked like, mind you it is kind of dark being no lights and all.


Final_Transit said...

Bob! You are a hero!

I loved the 'wow, saturn' story. Its a coincidence, but the first time I looked at the sky was in Nehru Tarangan (Planetarium) in Mumbai and I had to stand on a grey colored platform to reach the eyepiece, that was back in 1990 or so. Guess what I saw - Saturn!! I still remember, it was so brilliant, with the ring (not very clear) but still its one of my best childhood memories. It happened on Saturday (day of Saturn) when we thank Saturn, that's how we get days of week. Sweet, thanks Bob :)


Ivanhoe said...

Oh Bob, that is wonderful! You hit your 100 mark I'm sure, it looks really busy there :o)
p.s.: I cannot view the video though.

Ruth said...

This makes me feel proud, Bob! I can't explain that, but that's what I feel. It was a brilliant idea to place the scopes, and awesome that your mall participated in Earth Hour.

I do remember the first time my brother showed me Saturn through his telescope, and it was tremendous.

Hey, Don and I got into the hot tub last night, and as always Don was looking for satellites or shooting stars, and he spotted the space station. So for a few minutes we watched it across the sky - his second time, my first. Dumbly, we sat there and stared, when we should have gotten binoculars or the scope! Duh! Next time. Hope there is one.

Stephanie Barr said...

That is ubercool, Bob! What a fabulous idea! I remember my first look through a telescope, set up outside a building at the Johnson Space Center. It was a special telescope focused on the sun looking at sunspots.

I think that interest in space, even in those that say "why waste our resources" is there - there's just so much to see.

Sherer said...


Great stuff. Someone like yourself is what got me interested in astronomy. It was actually a drop dead blonde that never called me back. But she showed me the constelations and I thought it was cool, so on my nightly walks I started to figure it all out.

Awesome job - your the man!


betchai said...

it was indeed a great idea to celebrate 2 things at once. you were right about the inspiration it brings to the kids, my niece, when i brought her to Griffith observatory in LA kept on saying again and again she wanted to become an astronomer and physicist, so she hopes she will not suck in Physics since she is just in middle school right now :)

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Priyank, very cool story, especially about how it happened on Saturday.

It is amazing how we remember our first time, my first object was the Moon, didn't know how to find Saturn as a kid, but it still amazed me.

When I finally did find Saturn it was the coolest thing, something I will never forget.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Ivanhoe, I'm sure I did reach and surpass my target, now I'm on to 200 people,lol. Too bad about the video though.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Very cool Ruth, I feel proud too, to be involved in something like this is very exciting and was a rush well I was doing it.

Cool about the ISS Ruth, never binocs around when you need them.

There was a flyby off the ISS while we were doing the scope thing, but I totally forgot about it, I had plans to point it out to everyone but was way too busy.

The ISS flies by frequently, to find out the next time in your area just drop by heavens above website, link below and either choose your city or plug in your lat and long, works great.\m/\m/


Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Stephanie, that is cool about seeing the Sun for your first time, especially at the JSC.

I agree there is the interest out there, the amazing cosmos raises all kinds of questions and curiosities in everybody.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Jesse, drop dead blonde, works for me, I'd think I'd be more apt to be interested in just about anything in that case,lol.

Too bad you never got a call back, oh well you got the constellations out of the deal, that also works for me.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

That's awesome betchai, I'm sure your niece will do just fine, if we want something real bad we usually strive to attain it.\m/\m/

Shinade said...

This is truly incredible. What a wonderful thing for you to do.

I agree you are a hero. You never know how many young people's lives you may have changed just with this one action!!

You are just a super person and the world needs so many more like you!!


Marvin the Martian said...

How fun! What a wonderful way to spend the evening.

Moonshadow said...

This was a wonderful thing that you were a part of. I have my brothers little metal telescope that he got when he was in elementary school (he's 3 years older than I). I doesn't do the best job, you have to find something with it first.

Nothing was showing up in the video space for me either, using IE. So I opened your page in Firefox and it was there, but there was code visable above it too.

Dr. Lauren said...

I remember using my Jason telescope years ago for the first time. I think I still have it in the attic. You can't see much,but it's still fun to play with. How fun it would have been to be here.

Mike said...

What a wonderful experience you had - sounds like you might need to do a few more of these public observation sessions. It will get more folks interested in astronomy. My group has several observation sessions each month - some are at the club's observatory, which is not open to the public, and some are held in public places, such as the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, which also has an observatory on its roof.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Jackie, I got a lot out of it as well, quite a rush to see the reactions of somebody looking at Saturn through a scope for the first time.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Marvin, a great way to spend an evening, going to have to do more of this.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Cool Moonshadow, I wish I would have kept my little metal scope.

I know about the video, not quite sure what to do, I have the same code lines above mine in firefox, that's why I usually go with you tube, but I didn't this time because of the security issues.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Hi Dr.Lauren, cool about still having your Jason Telescope, they were a good scope at the time, it was a lot of fun that night for sure.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Mike, I am already planning another outing, the key is having it when Saturn and the Moon are out together and the time frame when the theaters in the mall let out and new ones start.\m/\m/

Swubird said...

Very nice Bob. It was an enthusiastic amateur astronomer like you who gave me my first look through a telescope. When I saw the craters on the moon I was hooked for life.

Happy trails.

Cashmere said...

Wow! I wish you could set up your telescope here for me to view.. lol! ;P

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks swubird, I got my first look at the Moon when My dad bought me my first telescope, something I will never forget.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Hey Cashmere I'd like to be there as well.\m/\m/

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

How cool, Bob!!! We were out Monday night with the Cub Scouts. No telescope, just the naked eye. The Space Station came overhead. THAT was cool.

(btw, you've seen the Galileoscope? I want one!)

Bob Johnson said...

Lol Susan, actually, just between you and me I have 5 coming for giveaways here on Black holes, not all at one time but throughout the year, gotta get a scope out to the people. The ISS did a flyby while we were out that night, but I was so busy I totally forgot about it,lol. Thanks for dropping by!!\m/\m/

Anna said...

Hey Bob you are the, and I mean the best. This is so cool, I wish I lived close by....Anna :)

PS Still counting second to China trip??? lol

AngelBaby said...

Wow, you got to do it all at once. Sounds like you had fun too. Just stopped by to say hi.

Love and Blessings,

Cacai M. said...

I always love looking at the sky much more I guess when about astronomy! wow! someday soon I hope it will as soon that I could also visit like what you have been a member into. I guess in Virginia soon. Thank you for the share, now I am awakened again of my wish to look at the astronomical ones, it would be awesome and lovely! great article you have!

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks a lot Anna, I look at that timer everyday, cool to see it going down,woo hoo,lol.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Hi AngelBaby, I had an amazing time, thanks for dropping by.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Cacai, great you have been awakened again, you probably have a local astronomy club somewhere around your location, they would have meetings regularly for you to view the sky through lots of different types of scopes. Hey thanks for dropping by.\m/\m/

Lyla said...

i'm support too. i'm turn off light in my home and watching planet with telescop :)

Bob Johnson said...

Wow, way to go Lala!!\m/\m/

flit said...

what an excellent activity to offer for Earth Hour!

Mike said...

Hey Bob - thanks for stopping by and sharing a comment as well as adding me to your science site blog listings. Your site is great and enjoy postings and images. Stop by for a visit - Apollo spaceflight series continues.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks flit, it was a lot of fun.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

No problem Mike, I like your site too.\m/\m/

Drowsey Monkey said...

That is so mega cool Bob!

Bob Johnson said...

Hey good to see you again Drowsey, and thanks.

I had a lot of fun, accomplished my IYA goal and thrilled a lot of people, was a great night.\m/\m/

Anna said...

Hey Bob just dropping by to say thank you - got my 3D glasses. Thanks again, Anna :)

Bob Johnson said...

Great to hear Anna, thanks for dropping by to tell me.\m/\m/

kml said...

How generous you are, Bob, and what a great feeling you gave to many people - as well as the great feeling it gave you to share. You're one of the best!

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks a lot Kathy, it was a lot of fun just to watch the expressions on the people's faces, everyone thanked me for doing what I did, very gratifying.\m/\m/

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