On Sunday, Jan 20, the Astronomy Outreach Program, directed by Professor Tammy Smecker-Hane, put on a hugely successful public outreach event for the total lunar eclipse. Over 1,000 people attended over the course of the night. At the start, Physical Science Lecture Hall (PSLH) was filled to capacity with people of all ages who came to listen to Professor Paul Robertson give an exciting lecture on exoplanets, entitled “Exploring the Galaxy’s 250 Billion Planets”. After a lively Q&A session that covered everything from cutting edge exoplanet research to philosophical questions about the search for intelligent life to questions about careers in science, the crowd moved out to the courtyard in front of the Multi Purpose Science & Technology Building and Parking Lot 16 in order to get a glimpse of the Moon’s craters through our numerous portable telescopes. Clouds moved in and out throughout the night, but it seemed to only add to the excitement of the event. At the height of the eclipse, the moon dramatically turned blood red as the only light reaching it had been filtered through the Earth’s atmosphere and scattering had removed shorter wavelengths of light. Food trucks were brought in to keep the crowd warm and well-fed, and the trucks donated 10% of the their sales back to the Astronomy Outreach Program. These outreach events are surprisingly costly to run
(approximately $1,200) because we have to rent PSLH from the campus, pay for a parking lot attendant, signage, etc. One of our Astronomy Club members designed a lunar eclipse T-shirt to help raise funds to cover the cost, and members of the Astronomy Club staffed a snack booth to raise money for the club. The event was such a huge success we were able to raise slightly more than the cost of the event, and thus we plan to hold more events like this in the future. Anyone interested in donating to help make this happen can contact Professor Smecker-Hane (firstname.lastname@example.org) or make an on-line donation at give.uci.edu designating Physical Sciences and UCI Observatory. Huge thanks go out to astronomy graduate students and undergraduate Astronomy Club members, who ran the telescopes and booths, and to graduate student Manuel Paul for training them to setup and run the telescopes. We have some T-shirts leftover, so if any alumni or friends of the department want to get one for themselves and contribute to helping fund future events simply email Professor Smecker-Hane. We’ll mail one to you for a donation of $30.
This post is a guest post written by Physics and Astronomy professor Tammy Smecker-Hane.