Published On: Fri, Jun 2nd, 2017

Viewing Jupiter, The Moon, Otherworldly Stuff at the Astronomy Festival

When Najwa was a lot younger, I had her saying she wanted to be an astronaut.  Almost had her wanting to dress up as one for Halloween.  I put glow in the dark stars on the ceiling of her room, got her a globe [mostly to encourage her to travel the world, but also to see Earth as an astronaut would from space], got her books with characters who were astronauts, books about the planets, had her memorize the planets in order before starting kindergarten, and so on.

Last year, though, she got her first glimpse of another planet at the Astronomy Festival on the National Mall where she saw Jupiter and Mars. A few months ago we went to a stargazing event at the National Air & Space Museum where she saw Venus and a bunch of other otherworldly objects.

So, when the Astronomy Festival returned this year, it was inevitable that we would return.

On the way to the Astronomy Festival
And like last year, Nduku gives Najwa a piggy back ride to the festival.

When the sun starts to set, there’s a few really bright lights that pop out in the dusk.  It’s natural to think they’re stars, but they’re actually planets.  As the sky turned blue to black, Jupiter made its presence known.  Looking through the telescope, you can see it and several of its moons, a pinprick of light against a pure black canvas with smaller pinpricks of light orbiting it.

When looking at the moon through the telescope, Najwa says it looks like bubbles on its surface.  Those bubbles are craters and mountains.  Got me thinking about buying us a telescope for the house.

Astronomy Festival
Astronomy Festival
Astronomy Festival
The bright light next to the moon is Jupiter.

There was also this machine this guy set up that made weird sounds.  He said it was the first electronic music player.  He let people play it, not that anyone knew how to make music from it.  Sounded cool though.

Unfortunately my phone battery died so I couldn’t take more photos of all the other stuff they had.  Not that there was much light out there was the sun set.  But they had a table with a jar with some liquid in it and a glass tube.  When you adjusted the jar so that the glass tube was submerged in the liquid, it disappeared.  The properties of the liquid, mineral oil, and the glass tube were the same as light passed through them so it looked like the glass tube simply disappeared.

Another guy used dry ice to make a comet.  Or at least demonstrated with a comet was.  It looked like it was on fire, with steaming billowing out of it, but it was cold, really cold, as he explained the properties of a comet and the misconceptions scientists had about them when they were first discovered.

We also got some solar eclipse-safe glasses for the eclipse coming August 21.  For our area, he said the eclipse will be viewable in the afternoon/evening time.  He’s part of the Citizen CATE Experiment, a project where images of the eclipse will be taken from 60 telescopes along the eclipse’s path then pieced together for a video that it’ll be sharing shortly after the eclipse.

Next year, we plan on getting out there a bit earlier so we can get in line faster for the mobile planetarium.  The line gets so ridiculously long, we couldn’t wait.  Who knows, maybe we’ll have a telescope by then and will bring ours out to view the planets as well.

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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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