Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Free Astronomy Programs

We had an amazing free program at our library last week. The Atlanta Astronomy Club sent volunteers to give a talk about the moon, and then another talk about comets and asteroids. Art Zorka, who was the main presenter, has a very laid back style and was able to put complex astronomy in terms that even the youngest audience members could understand. He brought a collection of rocks - some of them meteors, some of them ordinary rocks you might find in your yard and had everyone try to guess which was which. We had a great crowd and the speakers were terrific. They're affiliated with NASA's Night Sky Network; I've been lucky to be able to set up programs like this in several states, and I don't think I've ever really been disappointed. 

In Texas, I had author Jane Ann Peddicord come and read from her book Night Wonders. She asked for volunteers from the audience to demonstrate the motion of the planets around the sun, using hula-hoops. Brilliantly, she had the kids in the audience "twinkle" by waving their hands. When I was visiting friends in Baltimore, I had the chance to go to an astronomy program where the presenters brought a giant tarp printed with a photo of the sun and invited children to hop up and down as if they were sunspots. They also brought a telescope with specially darkened lenses so you could look directly at the sun. When I was in Los Angeles, I had a group bring in multiple telescopes to compare and contrast what each one does, as well as a felt board story illustrating the phases of the moon. Don't overlook this great opportunity for a free program at your library: if you're interested in having some local, amateur astronomers give a presentation go to Night Sky Network's website and check out your local chapter.

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