Monday, December 19, 2011

Astronomy Night AZ Style


After departing Houston on Road Trip #432 (that's just a wild guess), I drove through Arizona (it's rather IN THE WAY if one hopes to reach California) and stopped in Ahwatukee (a suburb of Phoenix) to join a giant crowd of fellow nerds (genus: Not-Trekkie-Nerds) at Astronomy Night at the Akimel A-al School!

That may have been the most distracted compound sentence to ever appear on my blog. But, it's December and you're all too busy shopping to read things carefully anyway. So posts this week will be largely pictorial...

Gamma Ray Bursts Project
8th graders know more than you do

This delightful annual event for students, parents and local space enthusiasts is open to the public, so I didn't even have to sneak in just because I'm a hopeless astronaut groupie!

Yes, there was an astronaut there, and I will feature him tomorrow... but first! Check out some of the amazing projects completed by the 7th and 8th graders of the local Middle School.

Is Pluto still a planet?
Pluto still gets lots of love

I must say, it was so immensely gratifying to see such widespread interest in so many areas of science by energetic and curious youngsters, many of whom incorporated profound research and even some beautiful works of art into their chosen projects.

Clearly, this school benefits from enthusiastic teachers, involved parents, and participation from local clubs and museums -- including the Saguaro Astronomy Club, the Phoenix Astronomical Society and even the esteemed Challenger Space Center of Arizona -- many of whom sent speakers, laptop presentations, interactive games for all ages, and even models of asteroids.

Lunar Rocks
Local teacher trained by NASA Marshall to handle Moon Rocks!

The evening's festivities included telescope viewings in nearby sports fields, a portable Planetarium, and... door prizes. Well, any reason to sell raffle tickets at school events -- heaven knows the government sure doesn't value science enough!

Conveniently, and in addition to the Space Shuttle pilot who spoke, there was also a meteorite pro on-hand to answer questions about extra-terrestrial rocks and how to find them on Earth. When YouTube finally starts cooperating this week instead of ruthlessly changing all of our channel front formats, I'll embed a few clips for our viewing pleasure...

What, indeed?

Check out my Astronomy Night album in my Picasa Gallery to see more wonderful projects from a whole lotta smart kids, including cosmological breakfast cereals and NASA space suit diagrams. Many more videos and pictures to come of this great event, so stay tuned!