Star parities for schools, scouts, or other civic groups are often planned months in advance. Too often we have to cancel such an event due to bad weather. That was the case for Steere Farm Elementary School in Burrillville at the end of March this year.
The coordinator, Diane Hayden, and I decided to reschedule later in the fall. Sometime during mid-summer we finally settled on a date—Friday, September 21.
It had been some time since we had provided a star party for Steere Farm. Weather always seemed to conspire to force us to cancel the event.
I recruited 11 Skyscrapers members to volunteer their time to provide telescopes to share the heavens with Steere Farm students, their parents and siblings.
Set-up time was around 6:45 pm (approximate sunset time), with viewing to begin at 7:30 pm. All week the weather forecast bounced back and forth from good to bad. On the Friday morning the low clouds finally cleared around noontime, and though clouds were once again scheduled to arrive in the 8-9 pm time frame, we decided to go for it.
The 11 members who volunteered were: Tom Thibault, Conrad Cardano, Jim Brenek, John Leonelli, Bernie “Bing” Kubaska, Bob Horton, Bob Forgiel, Alex Bergemann, Jim Crawford, Tom Gilson and your truly.
While the school did have an indoor program before our observing session, some people were out in the field prior to our official start time. So we began to invite folks over to take a look at the almost first quarter Moon during evening twilight.
Everyone was most impressed with the view the scopes provided. Once everyone had gotten good views of the Moon, many of the scopes were trained on other objects, like M31, M13 and Albierio, just to name a few.
While the students’ attention span is usually fairly short, we only began to pack up our equipment around 8:45pm.
When coordinator Diane visited me at my scope during the evening she told me that 140 individuals had pre-registered for this star party. And to add to that number, 15 of my students from Bryant also came to enjoy the event. (Giving them extra credit was the incentive.) However, they really enjoyed the experience. Many had never looked through a telescope before.
Diane told me that night that she heard nothing but great comments from the attendees. And during the following morning’s soccer practice, many parents and students were still talking about it. They were all very pleased.
And to top it off, the Steere Farm PTF made a generous donation to Skyscrapers in the amount of $275! That’s not a typo … $275!!
Skyscrapers could not accomplish such an event if it weren’t for the dedication of the volunteers named above. They helped to introduce many students and their families to the wonders of the universe.
I hope you will consider participating in a future star party. The satisfaction one receives from sharing our love of the sky is incredible.
PS. It did cloud up and rain during the overnight hours.