On April 11, Grand Mesa Observatory founder and President of the Board John Mansur had the opportunity to talk about astronomy and the observatory to a group of 25 young men, ages from 13-17 at a school in Melbourne, Florida for at risk youth. Most of what these young people knew about astronomy is what can be found in science fiction movies and what their teacher had been telling them in the days prior to the session. Also remember, in that part of Florida, the Space Coast – Cape Canaveral area – the air is so humid that the seeing conditions are very poor. Combine that problem with the light pollution, and the only stars visible there are the primary bright stars. In fact, in nearly 30 years of star watching there, John himself has seen the Milky Way only one time and then it was very faint. As a result, the young men really had no concept of what is out there.
John gave a Power Point presentation entitled “Our Home The Milky Way and Beyond” that GMO volunteer Nancy McGuire had prepared, with just a few modifications. It was primarily aimed to give a good overview of astronomy, including what different kinds of astronomers there are, what do they do, and what tools they use to study the universe. It was designed to really spark an interest in astronomy and it was very successful in doing that. The young men had many questions and showed much interest – as did the supervisory staff that sat in on the presentation. John stated: “They were very impressed and amazed at the number of stars, galaxies, and other wonders there are in our heavens. But then so am I.”
They loved the images of nebulae and galaxies. They were fascinated by the video that GMO Assistant Director Isaac Garfinkle had put together showing the roof opening at the observatory in Colorado and then the scopes doing a ballet set to classical music as they un-parked, pointed, then parked again and then the roof closing.
John encouraged the young people to strive for an education, so they could really participate in the field of astronomy or other sciences. He sensed that most of them had never considered such a possibility before.
John commented; “All in all, it was a wonderful experience for me, and I think also for them. Nancy, thanks for your help!”