|The 15" and 20" Obsession(s) |
were instrumental in Portal and
at the Grand Canyon.
|Leo Triplet shot at the All Arizona Messier Marathon. 10.5 hours total exposure with QHY8PRO and Explore Scientific ES127CF refractor.|
Give Something and Get Something
The kind of outreach I'm talking about here is the more common definition - setting up a telescope and showing the universe to less experienced eyes. I've always been keen on outreach and some years ago, back in the early 2000's I did a good amount of it locally. I'd like to say that work, life and family made it difficult to continue the outreach work - but if I'm being honest, the truth is that selfishness is what made it difficult. I focused more on things that had a direct payoff for me...and in the end found that it was a far less fulfilling way to proceed through life. One of the things that I've found to be true, at least in my case, is that we tend to become jaded. After I've looked at Saturn a hundred times it becomes 'just Saturn' to me. Let me show Saturn for the first time to a child who's never looked through a telescope before and it reminds me why I fell in love with the night sky in the first place. Outreach is the cure for jaded. This time around in my haphazard and checkered amateur astronomy career, a number of things have come together at just the right time and in just the right sequence to renew my love for this amazing
While the initial intention was honorable, my outreach activities weren't entirely altruistic starting out. Last November I fulfilled a dream of purchasing a travel trailer for camping and amateur astronomy. It has become affectionately known as "The Command Center" amongst my astronomy friends. When January 1st, 2012 rolled around I was one of the first in line to volunteer to setup a telescope for this year's Grand Canyon Star Party - North Rim. While I was excited about the prospects of the outreach and sharing the night sky with visitors to one of the most amazing places in the world, I was equally excited about being given a campsite for the command center in the North Rim Campground for eight nights. Getting a campsite for one night is difficult enough, but getting one for eight nights is next to impossible. I began to daydream about all the daytime wanderings that would now be possible. In the end the outreach was the highlight but more on that later.
Mount Lemmon and Messier
|My June 2012 observing site|
- Is that fake?
- Is that real?
- It looks like a picture.
- I've never seen anything like that in my life.
- I had no idea that you could see those things with your own eye.
Over and over people were amazed and happy that we had come to share the night sky with them. If I heard thank you once, I heard it a thousand times that week. On the first and second nights we were priveleged to spend time with an 8 year old named Lauren. She was so excited the second night that she was jumping up and down while she stood in line. She soaked up every object that was shown to her and stayed excited for more. That sort of enthusiasm is infectious. Over the course of the week I had at least a dozen people who were pretty advanced in their years - seniors if you will - who commented that they'd never seen anything so wonderful in their life and that everyone should see this stuff at least once.
On Wednesday night I had the privilege of being the speaker for the evening and presented a topic on the distance scale of the universe. It was well received and one little girl was so enthralled that she hung around afterward to talk some more with me about it and spent much of the evening at the telescope with me asking questions and reconciling her views in the eyepiece with the information from my presentation. It was just awesome stuff.
What was in it for me? Depends on how you measure it. If you measure it in the things of this world - it was a losing proposition. I paid money out of my own pocket to haul a travel trailer 300 miles up 7000 feet of elevation gain and gave up a week of my life showing the universe to the public for a few hours each night. I was reimbursed for none of it. And if that's the way that you measure....you're missing out on the whole thing. Because I got so much out of it that I can't wait to waste all that time and money again next year - even if it costs twice as much. I got to: I can't wait now for the next new moon myself so I can get back out and image and observe our universe. It's like being a newcomer to the hobby all over again, you can't wait to see it all. And I can't wait for next year so that I can do it all again. Outreach reminds me of what's important in this life - it's the giving and sharing. It's being selflessly available to share what you have to offer whenever the opportunity presents itself. My tendency in life is to be harsh and rigid and it never pays off well. The outreach opportunities - especially Mt. Lemmon and Grand Canyon Star Party - are the examples that remind me of the true rewards in this world. If I've learned one thing in this life and this hobby it's that you should give without expecting anything in return wherever possible. You'll inevitably be rewarded beyond anything you could have imagined.