Published On: Fri, Jun 10th, 2016

Najwa’s First Glimpse of Another World

This wasn’t going to be your typical festival. No dancing, exotic foods and vendors selling you timeshares or replacement windows. For this one, it didn’t really get started until after dusk, tables were filled with scientific equipment, and you had a chance to take a peek of Jupiter, Saturn or Mars with your own eyes.

As the sun started its descent behind the horizon, we trekked out to the Astronomy Festival on the National Mall. Najwa had no idea where we were going, not sure if she was going to be bored or not, so as usual, she wanted a lifted as the enthusiasm hadn’t kicked in to make the walk from the Metro.

Nduku carrying Najwa

Washington Monument

When we got there, it just looked like a crowd of people in the shadow of the Washington Monument. There were tables set up, a bunch of telescopes, and getting more crowded as the sun was setting. Initially, though, Najwa couldn’t figure out what to make of the festival. There weren’t games or a kid’s corner at this one. There was an inflatable planetarium, but the line was as long as the one you’ll find to go up the Washington Monument, so we skipped it.

But, eventually, she got into the swing of things. The first table was where anyone could write what was their favorite thing about space. Najwa’s?

Favorite Planet - Jupiter

From there, we bounced from one table to another, me being the only one really interested in all the science talk and experiments, but there were some relatively kids-oriented activities. One of them was putting in order a bunch of different space things such as the moon, a galaxy, a nebula, etc. Let’s just say Najwa is still a few years away from understand just how big the universe and its contents really is.

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Eventually, as it got darker, and the lanterns at some of the tables were going out, and people started to finally head home, we finally jumped in line to take a look at the planets. With the naked eye you could see Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, with one of the astronomers pointing them out since they just looked like stars.

The one planet we looked at through a telescope was Jupiter. You could distinctly see Jupiter and three of its many moons, though they really just looked like pinpricks on a black paper. But it was Jupiter. And when Najwa finally got to finally see her favorite planet?

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It was a good night. Najwa can now say she saw the largest planet in our galaxy with her own eyes. And three of its moons, though who knows which ones they were.

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Heading back home

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About the Author

David Gaines

- David Gaines is a Washington, DC, resident transplanted from North Carolina whose dream career was a newspaper writer but settled for the recruiting industry and simply blogging about whatever thoughts crosses his mind.

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