Tech Trek Stanford Star Party

July 16, 2009

The American Association of University Women sponsor an annual program called Tech Trek for gifted junior high school girls at Stanford University. Here's some YouTube's on the festivities. The girls receive concentrated exposure to mathematics, biology, computer science, astronomy, and other topics in science. A highlight is the opportunity to see the real stars and planets one night, and I was lucky to be able to act as a tour guide to the stars. My visiting professor friend Steve Krueger (U. Utah) was in town and also came along for the fun. The night was a TOTAL BLAST! I do love showing the stars to enthusiastic future scientists, and they had many questions and boundless energy and excitement.

First target was Saturn - only 2 months from a rare ring plane crossing. I exposited on the choking smog atmosphere of Titan and hoped none of these young people had grown up in L.A. to experience smog first hand.

Listening to Jim give the parameters for the evening

Checking out the Lagoon Nebula - Home of birthing stars - and no, there are no mother stars painfully popping out baby stars!

I tried to take some "available light" shots to save their eyeballs from the fearsome flash. But.... even at ISO 1600 it was too dark. So as long as my camera was going to stay open forever, I thought I'd fool around with the direction I pointed it, and got this cool spiral from someone's head lamp.

Go some nice smiles here - checking out a MILLION STARS in globular cluster M13. They loved the name of these clusters - very globby!

Another "available light" shot that didn't quite work, but in an artsy way, maybe it did?

Some got their own pix of Jupiter and Saturn by the afocal method - just plopping their point/shoot cameras up against the eyepiece.

Wish I could've had a program like this when I was in junior high. But then again, I did get chosen to participate in the Summer Science Program of the NSF during the summer between my junior and senior year in high school - one of the highlights of my educational life, for sure.