Wednesday, February 04, 2009

TSTM and me

During RASC Toronto Centre "member nights" (i.e. amateur astronomer nights) Eric normally delivers The Sky This Month presentation. He describes some of the noteworthy events to happen in the night sky for the next 30 days or so. Typically, a handout is provided.

To emphasise certain events, Eric would fire up the Starry Night astronomy software, set the date and time, and aim at a part of the sky, or target a celestial object. Recently, he started including an omnirama of the space in front of the Ontario Science Centre.

I enjoy these little talks and demos as they remind me / us of the good things to try to catch. Eric's low-key style is intriguing, his knowledge of NASA events fascinating. And if you listen closely, you'll detect the subtle humour.

On occasion, he's not been around. Brenda, on these nights, has taken up the reins. A couple of months ago I suggested to Paul, if he was in a pinch, if both Eric and Brenda were not available, I could deliver The Sky This Month presentation. He responded quickly. OK. "You're on for February" Yikes!

Earlier tonight, I did my first run. I was a little nervous. I ran long (correction: slow). Paul gave me the hook at about 25 minutes. I had to dump 1/3 of my material! I did not get to the spaceflight slides in my PowerPoint presentation. I was not pleased with my progress. Still, people seemed to enjoy it. And my handout was very well-received.

Stef, in particular, was very impressed that I had tagged some items as "photo ops!"

The most fascinating thing though? How people reacted to me using Stellarium! Someone commented on the clean display. True, there is little to clutter the Stellarium interface. And I used scripts and keyboard shortcuts to get things done quickly. One person was very intrigued by what I was doing with the scripts, wanted to know what the language was like, how I learned it, etc. Grilled me. Someone commented on the realism. That's certainly a strength to Stellarium. A couple of people were astonished that it was free. General Public Licence baby.

Paul wants me to do TSTM again!

And there seems to be great interest in doing astronomy software demos...

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