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News Updates » 24 October 2009


After the clouds, Jupiter

When somebody who’s English is chosen to coordinate an astronomy outreach project such as Galilean Nights is it perhaps inevitable that rain and cloud will “stop play” for at least part of the event? I say, “don’t be absurd”, and I’m not just saying that because I don’t want any cancelled events to be all my fault…

The end of October was chosen for Galilean Nights due to the positioning of Jupiter and the Moon. Yet while some parts of the world enjoyed great observing conditions over the past three days, much of Europe hasn’t been so lucky, with Jupiter and the Moon being superbly positioned behind thick cloud. For a look on the bright side, this did result in some innovative event organisers putting Plan B (or even Plan C) into action and without the poor weather conditions, we wouldn’t have added the category of “most innovative Plan B” to the list of event awards. Not much by way of compensation, I know, but it’s the best I can do!

Over the past three months or so of coordinating Galilean Nights I’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm and generosity of so many people around the world who all made me realise just how much support IYA2009 has from all walks of life. I would like to thank everybody who has been of help in getting Galilean Nights to this point, from everybody in the Task Group who supported me in my role, to those who volunteered to give up their time (happily) to translate the Galilean Nights presentations, to many of the event organisers who’ve been sharing their stories and plans with me. Deserving of particular thanks is Mafalda who put the website together. Without Mafalda’s help, rather than making use of a website, Twitter and blogging, I would have communicated with you all via the 21st century technology of carrier pigeons, postcards and smoke signals, although perhaps this meant I missed a trick to make Galilean Nights a ground-breaking “new media” project – I might write the evaluation report in Morse code to make up for it.

The past three days of Galilean Nights has again demonstrated the huge levels of enthusiasm and generosity amongst many in the astronomy community. Perfect examples are those belonging to the EurAstro astronomy society. On Thursday night, with clouds and rain over Munich, they dove straight into plan B – setting up telescopes exhibition style and running a quiz for attendees. Unaware of their reputation for always being full of surprises, I was left fairly speechless by being declared “Miss EurAstro 2010″. It is very touching to know that my efforts have been appreciated by those who I would say do the actual hard work of running the individual public observing events.

In the same way that the free-for-all People’s Monday is a huge hit with the public following two weeks of rained off tennis at Wimbledon, so the clear (ish) skies of last night were all the more appreciated because of the previous nights of bad weather. Live Blogger Lee and I went along to the observatory of Jean-Luc, the chairman of EurAstro. Jean-Luc showed us Jupiter, talked us through the different pieces of observing equipment and most generously helped both of us to take our first ever astrophotographs through a telescope, for which I was most grateful. He was also far more patient than I at being the subject of a Lee Pullen photoshoot. As a one-man example of all that is good about the astronomy community, Jean-Luc deserves more than a medal.

So, now that Galilean Nights is officially over, I hope that many of you will have found the gaps in the clouds, that postponed events run successfully and that the next big global observing event has as much enthusiasm as this one did.

Catherine Moloney

IYA2009 Galilean Nights Coordinator