Happy New Year and thank you Longview!
We had a terrific turnout Dec. 21 for our first-ever Solstice Lantern Walk through the Solar System.
We brightened the longest night and celebrated the return of longer days and met great people. Here are some highlights.
Under clear skies and a nearly full moon, we estimate that 400 - 500 people walked from the Sun to Pluto. What a great bunch of happy people - many walkers were dressed up with lanterns and lights.
Our route followed the Solar System Walk given to the City of Longview by the Friends of Galileo Astronomy Club in 2001. The walk is a series of granite markers showing the relative distances between the Sun and the planets. The markers follow the path on the west side of Lake Sacajawea, over 1.64 miles.
(Map of Solar System Walk)
We had passports for people to take to each planet to get a stamp. The event was so popular we ran out of passports. Thank you to Pat and Rena at Copies Today / Speedy Litho for donating the printing for our passports! They looked great!
We had a variety of community groups sponsoring planets or otherwise helping with this event.
The planets were lit up in a small way or in a big way. Kids got candy at several planets, and people got to know some of the great clubs in our community.
Our judges Marin, Ava and Noel walked the whole route and judged each planet on these criteria:
We had online votes as well, for the People's Choice Award.
We will announce the winner of the Out of This World Award at our next club meeting (details below).
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If you walked the whole Solar System (3.7 billion miles!), you saw:
The Sun - Friends of Galileo Astronomy Club started off the event with lanterns and passports and candy for the kids.
Mercury - Kelso Freemasons Lodge #94 demonstrated that Masons are solid people. We had sponsors who had physical difficulties setting up and taking down - thank you Mike, Don, Craig, and Katie for jumping right in to help.
Venus - Girl Scouts of Western Washington made Venus one of our most popular planets. They even had line ups! It might have had something to do with cookies. And thank you, Girl Scouts, for also helping other sponsors.
Earth - Longview Garden Club had an interesting projection on the inside of their canopy. Did you see it?
Santa Claus - He traveled between the Sun and Mars. Ho ho ho!
Mars - Shinju Dojo Aikido was our first planet sponsor! A lot of people were interested to learn about a low-impact, non-competitive martial art, taught right here in Longview.
Jupiter - Longview Freemasons Lodge #263 sure added a lot of light to a dark evening, with an antique lantern collection.
Saturn - The Lilac Academy for Bright and Curious Girls did a terrific job with a booth - and with lighting up the path for hundreds of feet. Well done, home schoolers!
(They're awesome and really should make a web site)
Uranus - The Boy Scouts of America, Cascade Pacific Council didn't just have a good set up and interesting information about their planet ("12 Facts About Uranus"!), they added s'mores and a warming tent! Both were very welcome at that point in the walk.
Sacajawea - Stageworks Northwest Theatre definitely had the largest planet team. Check out their plays - maybe next time we can talk them into short performances during the Solstice Walk.
Neptune - Even with TWO astronomy clubs involved in this event, the Mount St. Helens Hiking Club was the only one to bring along a telescope.
Pluto - Four members of Rose City Astronomers came all the way from Portland to set up at the far end of the solar system. Check out their calendar for events next time you're in Portland.
The Space Shuttle
Friends of Galileo member Chuck Ring drove a van between the Sun and Pluto for those unable to walk the round trip. Phil Sari of Columbia Ford generously loaned us the van. Thank you, Phil and Chuck!
Thank you also to
- Andrea Horton of Gyros Gyros Restaurant for your generous financial donation
(Gyros-Gyros on Facebook)
- Emiley Siters for loaning us canopies from Youth and Family Link
Most of all, thank you everyone who came out for a new event!
You got a chance to meet some of the terrific people here in Longview and to learn about local clubs.
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Do you want another Solstice Lantern Walk in 2019?
Come to the next meeting of Friends of Galileo Astronomy Club and help make it happen.
7:00 PM, Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Mark Morris High School, Physics classroom D8
(Directions and map on our About page)
Happy New Year!
Our club is named to honor the first astronomer to use a telescope. NASA also honored Galileo, by naming a spacecraft to Jupiter after him. From NASA:
Galileo orbited Jupiter for almost eight years, and made close passes by all its major moons. Its camera and nine other instruments sent back reports that allowed scientists to determine, among other things, that Jupiter’s icy moon Europa probably has a subsurface ocean with more water than the total amount found on Earth. They discovered that the volcanoes of the moon Io repeatedly and rapidly resurface the little world. They found that the giant moon Ganymede possesses its own magnetic field. Galileo even carried a small probe that it deployed and sent deep into the atmosphere of Jupiter, taking readings for almost an hour before the probe was crushed by overwhelming pressure.
Click here for a summary page and here for the mission page. Lots of interesting info to explore!
The Daily News had a story about Friends of Galileo watching the transit of Venus in 2012.
Click to read the story.
It was a beautiful drive to the star party at Mount St. Helens last weekend. The event was coordinated by members of the Friends of Galileo Astronomy Club (Longview, WA), Rose City Astronomers (Portland, OR) and the Mount St. Helens Institute.
Friendly people when we arrived, and - what scenery!
Now, it's one thing to see diagrams or photos of the stars and galaxies and planets, and to read explanations of just what the "ecliptic" is. But looking at photos in print or online is just not the same.
Just after sunset, we saw Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars arcing in the sky from horizon to horizon. To see the planets in such a magnificent clear sky, with the volcano below, that was stunning!
And that was the beginning of the show.
Later, we turned to telescopes brought to the mountain by club members. They helped me see the Ring Nebula (2,300 light years away!) and the Andromeda Galaxy (2.5 million light years - the light left there long before there were humans here!). But thinking about light years is very abstract.
What really got me was seeing the planets lined up just after sunset, and later seeing the rings of Saturn and the cloud bands of Jupiter, even the Red Spot, with my own eyes (and a bit of magnification!).
After spending most of my life in the Big City, here I was away from city lights, with people who had the telescopes and the knowledge to help me see for myself large parts of our solar system. And, up there on Coldwater Ridge, the skies were big and clear enough I didn't look at one little bit or another but I could see the span of the solar system.
With my own eyes.
Friends of Galileo
We are astronomy enthusiasts who love to learn and to share our wonder at the amazing sights right overhead.