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.