School Star Party Program - Volunteers Needed

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SJAA Announcements

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Feb 6, 2018, 4:57:19 PM2/6/18
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Hello astronomers and friends,
This is a call for volunteers for the SJAA School Star Party program. Please read on for a small taste of what they are like. Or cut to the chase, and learn more here:

As an educational non-profit organization, the mission of the San Jose Astronomical Association is to bring astronomy and science to the public, to show the heavens to kids and grownups alike, and fan the ember of curiosity of the world, no matter how small the spark.  No other program within the SJAA drives this closer to home than the School Star Party program.

SJAA's School Star Parties have been happening for decades, led by the venerable program leader Jim Van Nuland.  The SSPs go on during the entire school year throughout the south bay, each at a different elementary, middle or high school, and always at the request of an educator or parent. They get busy during third quarter moons, slowing somewhat during new moons, and heavily ramping up during first quarter. Some months see four, five or even six SSPs in a single week!

Each SSP is an event held exclusively for that particular school community.  It is not a public event.  Despite being a private party, it's typical to see hundreds of students, teachers, parents and siblings come out to catch their first view of Saturn's rings, or long shadows draped across a crescent moon.  The excitement that gushes forth at these first experiences are palatable, almost embarrassingly so. We astronomers see these sights all the time, but most people do not.  Indeed, many people may hesitate, thinking that we astronomers are charlatans, performing tricks with the telescope, perhaps pasting Hubble pictures at the bottom of the tube.  No, we are not; what you see is light that has traveled from the sun to Saturn, bounced off its rings, then traveled back to earth, only to bounce off the mirror and into the back of your eye.  Explaining fascinating science never gets old.

The SSP program needs more volunteers to step up occasionally to provide such views to the school communities.  The regular troop is getting fewer in number, and we need more astronomers to get out under the stars to help distribute the load.  It's not unusual for long lines to form at the telescopes.  The SSP's take place usually on weeknights, but do not last long into the night. Picking up one night a month, or more, or less, should be entirely doable for most people.  You do not need to be an expert in astronomy, but you will have to explain what you are showing, and answer lots and lots of excited questions.

If you think you can help, even occasionally, please contact Jim, who will put you on the SSP mail list. On that list, he sends information about upcoming SSP's, their location, how to get there, where and when to set up, and more.

In our mission to bring astronomy to the public, and especially students and their families, we encourage you to get on the list and give it a try.  It is a very fulfilling experience and you never know if you are inadvertently sparking the next scientist or engineer. Please do consider participating by contacting Jim Van Nuland. You can read more and reach him via his email address, which is on the School Star Party website.

On behalf of Jim, the School Star Party program and the SJAA,
Rob Jaworski, Board Member
San Jose Astronomical Association


(and sorry for any duplicate messages!)
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