So, what can you expect from a field night?
If I’m booked for an incursion at your school/club/corporate event, I’ll usually arrive an hour prior to the scheduled start time to set up my telescopes and other electronic equipment. Outdoor school sporting fields are great locations for the telescopes, giving plenty of room for easy movement around them, and uninterrupted views of the night sky. I can even do viewing nights at school camps.
In the event of rainy weather or cloudy night skies, I will phone the organiser on the day and give them two options: go ahead as planned (I can talk the hind leg off a donkey about the stars and the night sky) even though chances of viewing anything through the telescopes are slim, or cancel the viewing night and reschedule for a later date.
Stargazing is very much reliant on the state of the weather, so it’s a given that sometimes the heavens don’t behave the way we humans would like! But don’t discount winter bookings – some of the best viewing happens on crisp, cold winter nights.
Assuming the weather is compliant, I will give a 30 to 40 minute indoor audio visual presentation (I bring a data projector with me) about what we are likely to be viewing that night. What we look at will depend on the time of year, as some astronomical phenomena are seasonal.
I pitch my talks depending on the age of the audience – lower primary or secondary schools will get interesting, understandable talks appropriate for their level, as there’s nothing worse than facing a phalanx of bewildered or bored kids. If it’s a family oriented audience, I keep the age/education differences in mind and try to include everyone and keep them engaged.
Once the spoken intro is out of the way, we head outdoors to the four telescopes where I conduct a 5 to 10 minute laser-guided tour of the night sky, highlighting constellations, planets (if available,depending on the time of year) and satellites (if any are flying over).
Everyone then has a chance to look through the telescopes, each of which is pointed at a different target in the night sky. I walk around and explain to the students what they’re looking at through the telescopes and answer any questions they might have.
If starting 7:00pm, we’d expect to finish about 9:00pm/ 9:30pm. Parents and siblings are welcome to attend as well.
I’ve provided Astronomy Education and Outreach for well over 16 years and I’m passionate about spreading the word about the wonders of our universe to the next generation, and to anyone who has even a passing interest in viewing the cosmos through a telescope.
If you want to help me spread that word, book me for your next school/club/corporate incursion through my contact page on this website.