We were contacted the other day by John S. Gianforte for the University of New Hampshire to help with an event at the Observatory. He... Read More
We were contacted the other day by John S. Gianforte for the University of New Hampshire to help with an event at the Observatory. He has heard about “Quest to Re-invest as it gains popularity and buzz throughout the state. We will be helping John in any way we can. We did not know there was such a thing going on at UNH and that it is open to the public and wanted our readers to know about this opportunity for a different night out opportunity. John explains the event and goings on at the observatory much better than we could so I have included his letter to us which explains in detail the Universities efforts. John writes:
Here’s a little background info about the mission, at the University of New Hampshire Observatory, which is run by the Physics department. There is no way for me to make an apples to apples comparison between what you are trying to do and what we are trying to do, but one common element is giving back, or providing an important service without expecting payment.
The UNH Observatory has been managed by students for over 27 years. It has been that way since I have been involved with it since the original observatory was erected in Boulder Field in late 1985. I can remember building it while I was going to school nights at UNH! The student manager, usually a grad student, recruits a staff and works to train the staff of students and other volunteers. Each and every month we hold two public observing sessions where we open the observatory and encourage the public, including UNH and area students of all ages to attend. It is free. And only the Manager of the observatory is paid and there is strict limit as to how many hours that can put in for. It never covers the number of hours they actually work, but it is a good lesson for them. The manager and staff are responsible for all aspects of the observatory, maintenance, scheduling, cleaning. Everything. Last year we provided astronomy outreach either to church groups, school groups, scouting groups, etc to over 700 people. This year we will top that number! Over the last few years, the managers have worked hard with the staff to make it “cool” for college students to spend at least part of their Saturday nights at the observatory! Our public sessions are held from 8 – 10 PM on the first and third Saturdays of every month–even in January when it is quite cold. The kids learn a lot about people, astronomy and what it takes to successfully operate an observatory. In addition, we are frequently called upon to travel to local schools and other locations to present and share our knowledge with others. I’ve even gone to peoples’ houses to assist them with the telescope that may have been sitting in the attic for 20 years! Of course that is all free. The important point I would like to make is that in a free society, it is of the utmost importance for every one of its citizens to be at least a little bit scientists. We certainly don’t need everyone to be astronomers, but I think you’ll agree that most people do not know too much about how things work in our world. And, that is very dangerous. We believe that if someone tells you that the world is going to end in 2012, you need to be at least smart enough to pull out your bologna detection kit, and start asking them some questions. Knowing which questions to ask is very important. The good news is that learning which questions to ask and recognizing the correct answers is not difficult. It just takes a little time and for someone to take the time to work with you and help you to learn that stuff by yourself and to be there if you have any questions. And, you would not believe some of the questions we are asked during our public and private sessions with school groups! That is our mission, Michael. And, that’s what the New England Fall Astronomy Festival is all about. It is our first attempt at trying something so big. I am sorry to say that we picked a terrible year to start it. But, that’s my fault. I don’t think we can let economics deter us from our duty to inspire and instruct. So, we’ve had a tough time raising funds. We are not looking for your company to give us a free tent. Although we would gladly accept it if it was offered to us, we are just seeking a discount for us to help make our cost covering goal. John S. Gianforte