Monday, 3 May 2010

Galilean Nights: Event Overview

I am so late in writing this post because of the fact that I didn't know how I should have begun writing this. And to be honest, I still don't. This post has been under development for more than six months. So I decided to do away with any sort of beginning and get straight to the point. So here's everything (well, almost) about my Galilean Nights event . . .

This programme, like the 100 Hours of Astronomy earlier in 2009, was organised by Prof. Dhiranando Roy Study & Research Centre.  In case you don't know, Galilean Nights was one of the Cornerstone Projects of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Organised between October 22-24 2009, this programme aimed at reaching out to the people to show them the wonders of the night sky. This programme also intended to spread awareness about the great man we are remembering in IYA2009: Galileo Galilei. The main focus of Galilean Nights was on the objects Galileo observed 400 years ago and revolutionised modern science: The Sun, the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn.

I had originally planned to hold the event on all the three nights. But the pressure of my studies did not allow me to do what I'd intended to. But I had to organise it because I knew I'd die if I didn't. So I decided to hold the event for one night only. Saturday, October 24, seemed to me the best date to organise the event as more people would be able to come to the event during the weekend.

I told you earlier that I was not satisfied with the promotion of the 100HA event. But this time, we were more focused and more determined. We started the publicity campaign one month before the event. I delivered a speech on Galileo on September 25 (Saptamĩ) during Durga Puja, a Bengali festival. During the Puja, we could reach out to a large number of people, so we made the most of this opportunity. I announced that we would organise an astronomy event on October 24 and invited everyone present there to attend it and observe the beautiful night sky with telescopes. This way, we could tell the audience about Galileo and his achievements and make them feel strongly about Galileo. Curiously, it was during a religious event when we were talking about a man who proved religious ideas wrong! This speech created a buzz in the neighbourhood about Galilean Nights. Everyone in the locality kept asking us about it.

Bengali version of the leaflet
A couple of days prior to the event, we started distributing leaflets (in both English and Bengali) among the local people. In this leaflet, we told people about Galileo and his greatness as a man who changed the entire history of mankind. We made sure that everyone in the locality saw the wonderful Galilean Nights poster. We used the Internet, especially Twitter, to promote the event. We phoned a lot of people, inviting them to be a part of this event.

The Internet campaign worked extremely well. I had received phone calls and emails from a number of students who wanted  to participate in the event. I was very glad to know that Twilight and Transformers weren't all this generation was interested in.

We (Mum, Dad, Grandmother and my sister) were now eagerly waiting for October 24 to arrive. And it did.

Event Night
One did not need to buy any kind of entry ticket for this event. Everyone could participate in this event for free. We also provided the participants with snacks and refreshments.The event officially started from 1730. At first the attendance was nothing to boast of. But people started pouring in as time went on.

We set up two telescopes on the terrace of Prof. Dhiranando Roy Study & Research Centre. At first I delivered a brief speech on Galileo and then gave everyone a brief introduction to telescopes. Then came the time for the observation sessions. We showed Jupiter and the Moon through telescopes.

I received a Celestron SkyScout for my 100HA event. We used this instrument to make this event more interesting. The unique instrument caught people's attention. They were perplexed by the fact that it could identify the objects in the sky so easily. Audio presentations on Jupiter and the Moon were made with SkyScout. The atmosphere of the event was very informal and that undoubtedly fascinated the attendees. We wanted to make the attendees feel more comfortable. So I let the attendees operate the SkyScout themselves.

Attendees were shown slideshows and short video clips on astronomy and space missions. I answered people’s queries. I also talked about various superstitions and their impact.

In short, the six-hour event was very successful. I credit the success of the event to Mum, Dad, Sister and Granny without whose help it would have been impossible for me to do this.

I love writing this part. You know why? Because it makes me very glad to say how overwhelming the reaction was.

Mr Sengupta, a very special guest, wrote: 'It was really splendid to catch a glimpse of Jupiter and his three moons in thus vast cosmos. Life itself is a riddle and astronomers throughout the history of civilisation have tried to unravel its darkest secrets. Looking at Jupiter is like looking beyond the horizon. It's really a glory to be alive and wonder at the magnificence of Nature. I'm simply left with "awe" in a word.'

Awe. Yes, that is the word we kept hearing throughout the event. Mr Panda, another esteemed guest, could successfully connect his daily life with the sight through the eyepiece. This was the first time he looked at the sky through a telescope. He imagined that Jupiter and his sons and daughters were a family like any other. 'A little child is feeling very sleepy and is just about to disappear. Another child will come out from the shelter after a long sleep. They are as happy a family as can be,' he wrote. In his imagination, the Moon, too, was something related to his household activities. This further proves how interconnected the daily life and astronomy (in fact, science in general) actually is.

Avijit, a school student like myself, was one of the attendees who contacted me after the event information was put up on the Internet.  To him it was an "unforgettable" and "life-changing" experience. Shashwat described the event as an "ode to mystery". Many said that this event made them realise that astronomy could be as fun and as entertaining as anything. Mr Chaudhuri and his daughter commended our efforts for making astronomy accessible and interesting to the general public.

Most common words/phrases in the reaction sheet were “great”, “wonderful”, “awesome”, “excellent”, “splendid”, “entertaining”, “well done”, “thanks” and “keep it up”. Everyone said that this event inspired them to learn more about astronomy and made them feel very privileged. They requested more such events in future.

We are thankful to each and every person who attended this event and in any way contributed to the success of this event. The kind words of encouragement of the attendees indeed mean a lot to us. This confirms the fact that International Year of Astronomy 2009 has been such a huge, huge (any repetition would be an understatement) success. Everyone related to IYA2009 has made it such a phenomenon. We are proud to have played our part (however little that may be) in this magnificent endeavour. Beyond IYA2009 will be just as phenomenal.

In conclusion, let me leave you with some pictures of the event night.


Space Lover said...

From the official IYA2009 Twitter page:

Crikey, @Upamanyu has done it again! Bravo, Sir. Read his #IYA2009 @GalileanNights report:

Space Lover said...

And this is a news update on the IYA2009 website.

This is truly overwhelming! At this moment, no one on earth is happier than me!