Monday, September 20, 2010

Jalan Kayu Lantern Festival

Last Saturday evening (18 Sept),  there was a Lantern Festival organised by the Residents' Committee of Jalan Kayu Zone 2. I was invited by Admiral Gardens Astronomy Club (AGASTRO) to give a short astro talk there (thanks Jin Peng!) and I am glad I brought my telescope along.

Upon reaching the venue, I was warmly welcomed by the friendly RC members and they were very helpful throughout the night in helping me to set up my laptop and providing crowd control for the telescope viewing.

Due to the short notice for this event, I did not have much time to find out more about the target audience and the suitability of the venue for stargazing. It was cloudy for the past 2 days leading up this event. When I woke up in the morning, I quickly checked the skies and the online NEA satellite weather imagery. Looks good! It boosted my morale to a create an interesting multimedia presentation in the evening.

When I reached the venue, I was told the main audience are kids!! Haha. Fortunately, my powerpoint slides are related to very basic astronomy and stargazing stuff. I printed a few copies of SkyMaps as prizes for simple quizzes during the presentation. I think everyone enjoyed watching the video showing the sizes of planets and stars. Did a short live demo of Stellarium and hopefully the audience will be inspired enough to actually install Stellarium in their computers and start exploring the virtual night sky with it.

During the presentation, one kid sitting in the front row raised her hand. Finally! Someone paying attention to my presentation. When I approach her, she pointed at my projected powerpoint slide and said "Universe spelt wrongly." LOL! Everyone had a good laugh. I quickly took the opportunity and quiz the audience for the correct spelling and award another kid with the prize (because the kid who spotted the mistake already got her prize for answering correctly in an earlier quiz).

Though there were trees and high rise buildings, Moon and Jupiter was not blocked. Half-way through my presentation, Richard arrived and started setting up his scope. When both of our telescopes are set, the crowd started to pour in.

The most memorable moment for me was when a very senior citizen (at least late 70s I guess) look through the telescope at the Moon for the first time in her life. My Hokkien sucks but I guess she roughly understood what I was trying to explain to her. I will remember her smile for a long time.

The kids enjoyed what they saw and kids asked the most interesting and funny questions that I could not have possibly anticipate. Can see the evil monsters in Space? I wanna see the Heaven. How do you know this Jupiter is Jupiter? LOL.

Overall, it was a very memorable learning experience for me. One of reasons I took up this opportunity is to improve my sidewalk astronomy sessions especially the upcoming one at Toa Payoh Central this coming Saturday. So hopefully, no more occassional complains that Jupiter looked so small in my telescope. :P

Here are some of the photos of the event. Thanks to William for taking some of the photos!

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