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A Busy Summer of Outreach

by Roy Gal, Astronomer and IfA Outreach Specialist

IfA booth at PAM airshow

IfA booth at the Pacific Aviation Museum’s Biggest Little Airshow. Photo by R. Gal.

The summer of 2014 has been packed with public programs across the state. We kicked off this unusually busy season with our free Sheraton Waikiki Explorers of the Universe lecture at the Kennedy Theatre on May 10. Prof. Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley spoke on “The Big Bang Theory, Inflation, and the Multiverse: An English Major's Introduction to the Birth and Early Evolution of the Universe.” Dr. Filippenko, the only member of both teams whose leaders were awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, and nine-time “Best Professor” at Berkeley, gave a very entertaining talk about the current view of our Universe and the possibility that it is but one of a huge number of universes. The sold out lecture ended with a great question-and-answer session, with a handful of children asking amazing questions.

We also continued our partnership with the UH Mānoa Outreach College through their Statewide Cultural Exchange Program (SCEP), which brings UH Mānoa experts into public libraries to share their knowledge. IfA faculty, staff, and students visited six libraries throughout the state. On Kaua‘i, astronomer Andrew Howard gave a talk in Princeville on extrasolar planets, and two of our graduate students traveled to Waimea with our sun-viewing equipment for daytime solar viewing. On Maui, J. D. Armstrong braved the twisty Hāna Highway to demonstrate how we learn about the Universe with a light and spectra activity. On O‘ahu, we were all over the island, with our scale model solar system in Kaimukī and Waimānalo, and a light and spectra demonstration in Kahuku. These programs have been very popular, and we’re extremely happy that libraries have provided glowing reviews of our events from this past spring and are inviting us back to do new activities in subsequent semesters.

We also partnered with the Pacific Aviation Museum (PAM) to conduct our second Boy Scouts astronomy merit badge workshop. IfA graduate students Mike Lum and Matt Hosek used a suite of fun, hands-on activities developed by a team of IfA astronomers, PAM staff, and Boy Scout troop leaders to satisfy the requirements of the astronomy merit badge. Instead of a day of classroom lectures, these kids made use of our portable planetarium and telescopes to explore the Sun and the solar system.

We are always on the lookout for venues to reach new audiences. On August 2 and 3, we were at the Navy Exchange (NEX) Back-to-School event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. doing solar viewing. This is a great opportunity to serve the men and women who serve our country and often spend only a short time in Hawai‘i. Two weeks later, on August 16 and 17, we participated in the Pacific Aviation Museum’s Biggest Little Airshow. This fantastic event attracted about 10,000 attendees to enjoy flying scale model airplanes and doing family-friendly activities, including our solar viewing and scale model solar system.