On January 15, 2019, Grand Mesa Observatory started the New Year off right with volunteer Nancy giving a presentation entitled "The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars" to a group of first graders at Glenwood Springs Elementary School. The enthusiastic group was excited to learn fun facts about our only moon, the sun that gives life to our planet, and the vast number of stars that populate the universe. A lot of photos in the presentation helped illustrate some of the science in a fun way! The students eagerly answered quiz questions. Teachers and students were encouraged to schedule a visit to Grand Mesa Observatory to see some celestial objects for themselves through our telescopes.
Partnering once again, Grand Mesa Observatory was the host site for the Western Colorado Astronomy Club's monthly public night sky viewing event which was held on August 10th, 2018.
Another large crowd flocked up to the Mesa in order to get a tour of the observatory complex, as well as to enjoy a night under the stars with the astronomy club members and their wide variety of telescopes. Director Terry Hancock reported on the event; "I want to thank our GMO volunteers and the members of the astronomy club personally for bringing equipment, showing the night sky to our visitors, and for making this a fun night to remember. Without you there wouldn't be an event. We at GMO are very fortunate to have you as volunteers, and this great alliance with the WCAC who have so many talented people helping to further the interest of astronomy in our region".
A friend of Terry's who was visiting from San Francisco assisted him with the observatory tours by manning the computers in the warm room, slewing the scopes, and capturing the M101 galaxy so folks could see a galaxy on the PC monitor. We counted at least 165 people through the door at jsut the observatory itself, and people were still coming in at 11:15 PM. Having an assistant for the observatory tours worked very well and Terry hopes to have a volunteer assistant to man the scopes for the next event in November.
GMO also tried to work out the bugs on a new addition to public events hosted there - a projector and screen that will be showing science short films and other items of interest during public viewing events. One of GMO's new volunteers (Don) is heading up that project, and with a little more work the new projector screen we installed last month should become a great asset for future events. Laser guided sky tours were also given during the course of the evening, and the planets ended up being the stars of the show as they shone brightly through both smoke and wind. It was another great event, and we look forward to seeing everyone for our third-and-final public viewing event in November!
Volunteer Nancy gave the presentation "Our Home the Milky Way and Beyond" as part of the Clifton Library's Educational Series. The library has a small presentation room, but it was a full house. The participants had fun answering the quiz questions and marveling about the universe. The audience included several young people, one of whom commented that he could not wait to see the future and all of the discoveries that would be coming.
It turns out that another audience member is actually a neighbor from Lands End Road! He met with Nancy after the presentation about wanting to volunteer at the observatory. All community members attending the presentation were encouraged to attend public sky viewing events and to tour the observatory.
The first official public night sky viewing event held at Grand Mesa Observatory took place on Saturday June 23rd. This was a rain date for the originally scheduled June 16th. event. The event is one of the Western Colorado Astronomy Club's monthly public events that are held at various locations from April through November, and in this case most of the volunteer astronomers for the evening were members of the club. Grand Mesa Observatory was the host for this month's event and some newly created signs placed along the roads leading up to the observatory helped direct visitors to the event.
There was a huge turnout too, with cars filling the parking lots and lining the road. People were especially excited for tours of the observatory itself, and observatory director Terry gave 3 tours for about 45 people, and two more tours later on for about 12 people. In addition to the observatory itself, our 50ft X 50ft concrete observing pad was full of people viewing the moon, planets and even some other deep sky wonders through the 10+ telescopes of different types that were set up. The red lights around (and on) the observing pad allowed guests to safely navigate between scopes, and the new red lights along the pathways allowed guests to safely travel back and forth from the observatory.
The crowds also enjoyed beverages and snacks that were provided by GMO, and GMO staff have already begun brainstorming ways to make our next collaborative event even better! Sincere thanks to the volunteer astronomers from the Western Colorado Astronomy Club, as well as the GMO volunteers who helped serve refreshments, place the road signs, and guide traffic into parking areas.
Two more public viewing events are planned at GMO, one on Friday August 10th., and another on Friday November 9th. Hope to see you there!
On April 27, 2018 Pomona Elementary School held an Enrichment Clusters Day. Students were given a signup sheet listing the various presentation/workshop options and could choose to sign up for topics of interest to them. For the first time this year, astronomy was added to the roster and Grand Mesa Observatory was invited to participate. Director Terry and volunteer staff member Nancy split the day's presentations. In the morning, Terry gave the presentation "Our Home the Milky Way and Beyond" to an interested group of students. Nancy gave the presentation to two different student groups in the afternoon. The presentation was educational and interactive with " fun facts" and quiz questions included. The students were quite willing to test their knowledge and also to ask great questions and make comments.
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!”