First off, what are ‘sidewalk’ events?
Sidewalk  or Street Corner Astronomy refers to the activity of setting up a telescope in an urban setting on a for profit or non-profit basis as an entertainment or for public education. Examples of people setting up telescopes on urban streets for public astronomical viewing go back well into the 19th century and maybe even further. In more recent years sidewalk astronomy has come to be more associated with altruistic individuals or groups offering views of the night-time sky as a free public educational service.
Because the sidewalks tend to be in light-polluted areas, sidewalk astronomers often coordinate their activities at times when brighter celestial objects like planets, the moon, and bright stars are visible. During the day, sidewalk astronomy often includes use of a solar filter on the telescope to allow people to view the sun.
As you can see, credits to Wiki lah.
And well, Malaysia typically doesn’t have much experience on these fantastic events here. We were disallowed from setting up at our initial place, KLCC park. The managements there didn’t just break our event, they broke the hearts of 7 members that decided to come to support us! Moving on, we left this shithole and went on to Titiwangsa Park.
We didn’t expect many people…. but the crowd that came was just the right size! Everyone got a chance to view the Moon through Simpson’s reflector, and some got to experience Chrono’s guide to stargazing pep talk!
Our on-the-spot task separation : Simpson does the scope guiding, pointing to the Moon and making sure the kids (and adults) doesn’t poke the eyepieces.
After they have wowed in wonder, Chrono will step in and ask, “Did you see the craters? Did you saw that there’s some places that are brighter and some darker? The ancient people thought that the brighter ones are land, and the darker one the seas of the moon! Well actually, the dark sides are large, dark, basaltic plains, formed by ancient volcanic eruptions.”
If they show interest, we move on to Chrono’s guide to Scorpio. We will usually start with “What is your horoscope?” Regardless of the answer, Chrono proceeds to take the star chart and ask “Do you see the three stars forming a line there? And the red star? Yes…yes! They’re actually the head and pincers of Scorpio!!!”
“Now look at the star chart, notice the shape… yeah its exactly what it is on the sky right now! Okay, now look at this – you see this ‘twin’ stars? (I did not say Double!) the stars is the tail of Scorpio! Now look up – do you see it? Yes yes that’s it! You saw the first constellation with your own eyes!”
That’s how it goes… And one thing we learnt from the people’s initial reaction – they thought that we are going to charge them for the viewing! Next time a big FREE placard is necessary. And the “DO NOT TOUCH” label on the telescope served us ‘quite’ well, it is Simpson’s idea after someone from his neighbourhood literally poked into the eyepiece and made him froze in bewilderment.
Other things we prepared is a copy of Chrono’s presidential star chart lol, a Moon map and our Facebook Group name, the link to Stellarium (www.stellarium.org) and a link to a basic star chart (www.midnightkite.com/starcharts.html).
The Moon map was especially apt considering there was a gigantic crater that can be seen from the telescope, the Ptolamaeus crater (http://www.google.com/moon/). Oh, and what caused craters? Our layman’s explanation is “they’re caused by asteroids in outer space colliding the Moon. Sometimes, they’re actually heading for Earth but the Moon intercepted them! The Moon acts as a bodyguard for us! Without the Moon the Earth would’ve been finished!”
Overall it was a really good and satisfying experiece! Especially the smile on their face when they saw the Moon through the scope, or after they managed to recognize Scorpio…. especially if their horoscope is the dear old scorpion! Although we closed shop at 11p.m., it was worth it!