What a day! What a party! What a tremendous event!
August 10 is a day to remember. That’s when more than 1,701 people gathered on the green across the street from the Fairbanks Museum for the largest astronomy lesson ever. This extraordinary event started as an idea to do something different proposed by Jen D’Agostino, director of visitor services. The day included free, family-friendly activities starting in the afternoon. Main Street in front the the Museum was closed to traffic, and street lights were dimmed for better stargazing.
“This stargazing party follows the huge interest in the Great American Eclipse that brought over 1,000 people to the Fairbanks Museum last summer,” says Adam Kane, executive director. “We’re eager to encourage more people to appreciate stars, planets, constellations, and the explorations of our universe that are happening now.”
Food trucks served a tasty variety of meals while the crowd gathered. Many visitors had traveled from Burlington, the Upper Valley, and across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire to take part. Thankfully, the weather was ideal: clear skies with a cooling breeze. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate the big things that can be accomplished right here,” said D’Agostino.
The Saint J Subaru Stargazing Party was a chance to introduce anyone curious about the night sky as well as seasoned stargazers to telescopes and guides that bring distant planets into view. “We’re excited about new discoveries that NASA has made in space, and we want to share that enthusiasm with friends and neighbors,” says Oliver Ames, director of the Lyman Spitzer Planetarium at the Fairbanks Museum. The planetarium was opened in 1961 and delivers daily tours of the cosmos through the summer.
The Town of St. Johnsbury worked with the Museum to close Main Street to traffic and to dim street lightsfor the event. Best of all, the Perseid meteor shower was approaching its peak, so viewers were be rewarded with a spectacular live show.
Educator Bobby Farlice-Rubio presented the astronomy lesson, which included highlights from the colorful history of astronomy – from early mythology to time-capsules and space travel. Farlice-Rubio is known for his popular guided tours of the cosmos in the Museum’s planetarium and can be seen every month on StarStruck, a WCAX segment dedicated to astronomy and space exploration. After the astronomy lesson, Mark Breen, science educator and creator of “Eye on the Night Sky” on Vermont Public Radio (VPR), broadcast a tour of the cosmos, explaining events and phenomena while the stars were in full view.