Working in partnership with Brookhouse School has become such a treat it almost never feels like a task the Travelling Telescope team has to accomplish but rather an opportunity to link up with old friends & pick up right where we left off. We've always been keen on conducting a Star Gazing event at the school’s grounds and finally we got approval from the school’s heads. September 30th 2014 was the date but first we had to get a few things sorted.
A lot of work goes in planning star gazing events and it gets slightly more complex if you have aspects like weather conditions & movement of certain celestial objects to factor into the problem. After a significant amount of meetings with the school’s administration we had solved most of the logistical issues arising and settled on a date.
(Now, you might wonder where i’m going with this but it will all add up, bear with me.)
In our line of work dates are seldom arbitrary, to us they represent windows of opportunity which we take full advantage of. In this case September 3oth wasn't merely a Friday, it meant the moon would be a lovely waxing crescent (ideal for night-sky observation), the planets Mars & Saturn would rise shortly after sunset and maintain a high position in the sky for a considerable amount of time and if we were lucky, some deep space objects;-Perfect cocktail for a debut star party for students in a school in Nairobi.
Going through the thorough security checks at the school’s gate is always interesting, The Travelling Telescope project is a fairly new concept in Kenya and to the guards at most points of entry it must be baffling. Just the massive box fastened to the truck’s roof-rack which houses a huge 12"Dobsonian reflector telescope is a quandary. Still, they knew we were coming and soon enough we were setting up our gear in the school’s sports field.
For this event, we would conduct a short film screening in the school’s auditorium before going outside just at sunset. There was an air of excitement all around, the students involved had their dinner slightly earlier before shuffling quietly to the auditorium. At this point i couldn't help thinking how strikingly similar this setting was to ‘Hogwarts’ mainly because the school is built in similar fashion.(complete with castles & drawbridges) Was Dumbledore watching from one of the towers? I Digress.
As the film screening progressed, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IorWrjteE4) we set up & aligned our telescopes in the field. Once the sun sets every second is precious and literally every gust of wind from that point onward is either bringing into view a big cloud which will likely obscure the night sky or serve to lower the average temperature bordering on chills.
Soon the kids were back outside and we were looking at the moon in exquisite detail through the telescope.
The familiar pale orb in the sky was transformed into a world in its own right, with peaks & valleys, plains & craters of all sizes! The kids loved it.
Next we peered further at the planets Mars & Saturn and the rings of Saturn did not disappoint. Seeing the rings with the naked eye through the telescope is profound and we feel doing events outside at night where one can actually see the stars & have some presentation to go along with it is just ‘the right stuff’ to inspire young minds with.
We had a pleasant evening out with the teachers & students and exchanged plenty of amazing ideas. Time really flies when you’re having a good time and soon it was bedtime for our little Astronomers. I wonder what was going on in their minds at that point.
Our goodbyes were said and they made us promise we would be back the next term, we certainly will. With more to show and plenty of stories about our travels and more advancements in Science! That is the beauty of what we do, not a dull moment because how could stars not shine!