Every year we do a summer reading club at the library, and this year’s theme is:
I didn’t do this art; you can tell because it, you know, exists.
It’s kind of a mishmash of dreams (the kind that happen when you’re asleep), dreams (the kind you have about your life), and astronomy (SCIENCE!), my favorite of those being the last one (because SCIENCE!).
We’ve had an impersonator come in and do dream interpretation, later during the summer we’ll be having a bunch of professionals (firefighters, police officers, doctors, farmers) come in to talk about their jobs, stuff like that, but my favorite, my baby, happened last night: an astronomer, a real, honest-to-goodness professional astronomer from a museum and everything, came down with binoculars and telescopes and set up in the library’s backyard and taught people about the stars.
One of my favorite parts was that she (it was a lady astronomer, and she was delightful) brought a Solar Telescope that only picks up on a certain type of ionized hydrogen atom (I think I said that right) and lets you look at the sun!
It looked like this, only redder
Once the sun went behind the trees, but hadn’t quite set, we had about an hour to kill before dark. Lady Astronomer had expected this, and had star charts and a cool lesson about the various stars we can see this time of year. THEN she pulls out a piece of paper that talks about when the International Space Station will be visible to the naked eye.
I’ve never seen the ISS in anything other than pictures. I’ve heard you can see it at dusk and night sometimes, but I’ve never actually thought that you can, y’know, really see it. I saw it last night.
For 5 minutes, a bright, glowing star-sized dot went from one horizon to the other, and I watched it the whole way. It was breathtaking.
All the while, we had a fire going in our handy-dandy firepit that I helped to dig last summer, and kids and parents and random adults who just love the stars were cooking hotdogs and smores and eating popcorn and playing and just having a great time while we waited for it to get dark enough to see some stars.
She pointed a telescope and a pair of binoculars at the moon in the meantime, and holy balls was that awesome. I’ve never seen the moon that clearly. There’s something about seeing this-
LOOK AT THOSE CRATERS
-that clearly in real life with your own eyes that’s completely amazing. I’d think that the whole “breathtaking” thing was just me being me had not other people been audibly gasping when they peeked through the telescope.
Finally, we started looking at stars and other planets, and that was cool, but the really, really cool part was when she busted out a green laser pointer that we could see in the night sky.
It really looked like that. Blew my mind.
Just a regular green laser pointer. They apparently do this. Awesome.
Finally, around 11, everyone leaves and Lady Astronomer packs up her telescopes and rides into the moonset (cause the sun was already down!) and I locked up the library and went home.
Tooting my own horn, this was all my idea and it went over so well I’ve been floating on a cloud all day. I’m just really proud. Thanks for reading.