Centennial Celebration: Historic Observing Night

The celebration has begun! First up on our Centennial Celebration events roster is the Historic Observing session at the Van Vleck Observatory. As the event coincided with Wesleyan’s accepted student days, AKA WesFest, the library classroom was overfilled with people–probably over 50 in all.

Roy discusses the importance of telescopes to astronomical observations.

Roy discusses the importance of telescopes to astronomical observations. He also talks about Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer who discovered a comet with a telescope. Photo by the author.

Amrys discusses this infamous photograph of Frederick Slocum at the 20-inch telescope, highlighting the importance of good time keeping.

Amrys discusses this infamous photograph of Frederick Slocum at the 20-inch telescope, highlighting the importance of good time keeping. Photo by the author.

Amrys shows off the Van Vleck's chronometer.

Amrys shows off the Van Vleck’s chronometer. Such a device keeps accurate time despite changes in motion or environment. Photo by the author.

About half-way through the talk, Amrys took over for Roy as he went to set up the 20-inch telescope for public observing after the talk. I wrangled Girish (and the other students in his TA session) into setting up the 24-inch telescope. Amrys explained more and more about changes in observing practices over time and Roy and Girish hurried to ready the telescopes for the crowds to come.

While I was running back and forth between Roy in the 20-inch dome and Girish in the 24-inch dome, I heard applause from the classroom. Amrys continued answering several audience members’ questions while others poured out into the hallway. Some found their way up to the 24-inch telescope and others had to wait in a long line for the 20-inch telescope that I guarded stoically. While forcing people to wait in line, I had some really nice conversations with pre-frosh and their parents! Buzzwords like “interdisciplinary education” and “liberal arts exploration” circled around my head as I thought about how perfect an example of inter-departmental collaboration and research our project really is.

That is, of course, if you discount the fact that I (a History major) still cannot adequately explain parallax measurement or how a sextant works. But I think Amrys can, so we should be ok!

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s