The Big Day!

August 15th

So, after all the planning and preparation, how did our Big Day go?

I’m happy to be able to report that it was a HUGE success! 🙂

Because we were set up on a public path it’s hard, if not impossible, to say how many of the people we saw and talked to yesterday actually came just to see our model and how many were just ‘passing by’ and stopped to see what on Earth we were doing, but between mid-day and 4pm we must have been visited by several; hundred people, definitely more than last year.

Luckily – like last year -we were blessed with a lovely day for our event, which certainly helped. We started setting up at just after eleven, taping the “planetary posts” to the fence as far down as Saturn, and soon after that Eddington AS members and our friends from across the country started turning up to help too. Long before we were totally set-up there were people asking us questions and starting to walk along the model, so that was taken as a good sign, and as mid-day rolled around we knew we were going to be busy!

So, mid-day… all the planets were in place, their “representatives” gathered by them ready to talk to people about that planet and astronomy in general… down by the Abbot Hall Park the solar viewing telescope was set up and just waiting for the first gap in the cloud… the Waterside Art Gallery had very kindly put two information sheets on display in their window for us, and the Wholefood Cafe – brilliantly renamed “The Restaurant At The End of The Universe” for the day! – was already busy, with people sitting on the outside tables, beneath the brilliant banner they’d made just for our event…

… and we were off! 🙂

At the start of the trail, Graham Fell – who had worked tirelessly on the event from the start of its planning – was doing a fantastic job,  not just representing the Sun, but welcoming people to the solar system trail AND showing them things through a telescope he had brought…

Next down the line, “Mercury” was in the safe hands of Helen Maffin and her mum, who had travelled up from Leicester and Liverpool especially to help us out on the day…

Helen had made some special activity sheets for our younger visitors, and they started flying off the table very quickly – so quickly we had to post special guards to watch over them…

Close by, “Venus” was in the care of Stella Coxon, who was clearly relishing the prospect of telling her visitors all about the planet’s nightmarish environment…

Moving on down the line, “Earth” was being looked after by Kendal Museum’s Anna Hall and one of the members of Kendal’s “Space Explorers” club, Scarlett…

I had set up my “Mars Base” a little way on past Earth, just opposite the Art Gallery, complete with my beloved “soft toy Mars”…

Moving on, just past the art gallery, “Ceres” and “Vesta” were part of the model, but unmanned…

… and further down the riverside, visitors came to”Jupiter”, where MJ and Jordan, having set-up a great little “stall” with some beautiful pictures of Jupiter,  did a fantastic  job all day…

Downriver from Jupiter, “Saturn” was being looked after by EAS members Freya and Lorraine. Here you can see Freya preparing to answer yet more questions from visitors to our model…

Onwards, onwwards, and towards the bend of the river EAS founder Philip Stobbart (right, below), and one of our volunteers for the day – Neil Wheeler, who had read about the event on the popular unmannedspaceflight.com forum and very generously offered his help – were representing “Uranus” and showing members of the public the Sun through a special solar viewing telescope…

Then, following the curve of the river, in the shadow of the imposing Parish Church, trident-wielding EAS member Liz Bradley was making the case for “Neptune”…

… and last but certainly not least, at the very end of our model, almost in the car park of the recently-opened K Village shopping centre, EAS members David Clarke and Ian Gibbard were doing a superb job representing “Pluto”…

For the next four hours there was a steady stream of people along the river, and everyone taking part in the event was kept very busy. There were lots of great questions, and a lot of interest in what we were doing; everyone had to work really hard to keep up with the demand for spacey facts and figures and information. A photographer came along from our local paper, the Westmorland Gazette, and took some great pictures of Freya holding up both Mars and Saturn – can’t wait to see those in the paper next week!

All along the river, people – young and old, knowledgeable and absolute beginners, fascinated and just curious, (or baffled!) – visited each planet in turn, learning about its size, distance from the Sun, and about conditions upon it. Lots of kids came along to see our model, some thoughtfully looking at the pictures and reading the captions others dashing excitedly from planet to planet, shouting out when they’d found their favourite! Young couples with babies enjoyed hearing about the latest discoveries in astronomy, while our more more mature visitors marvelled at the advances that have been made in this science since “their day” (and that’s a quote!). The staff in the Waterside Wholefoods Cafe were kept busy as many visitors to the model nipped in to try items from their special “space menu”, and there seemed to be a roaring trade in their delicious star- and moon-shaped biscuits! Next door, the Waterside Art Gallery enjoyed interest from model visitors too…

Here are a few more pictures from the day…

By the time we started packing up at 4pm everyone was pretty tired, but very happy with how the day had gone. We had done what we set out to do – show people just how huge the solar system is, and how tiny, in comparison, its many varied worlds are. We opened many people’s eyes to some of the wonders of the solar system, and certainly showed a lot of people how beautiful and dramatic Earth’s sister worlds are! Many people enjoyed thrilling views of the Sun through the solar telescope, and our younger visitors loved filling in their quiz sheets, too. We gave away countless information sheets, and pictures, and there were a great many very positive comments about our ambitious event, including some from people already asking if we’re going to do it again NEXT year! Well, we’ll see. 🙂

All in all, a really good day, thanks to the really hard work of a lot of people, some of whom deserve special thanks. So, my very special thanks to Graham Fell for all his work “behind the scenes” with information sheets, etc, and to Ian Gibbard who did most of the printing and helped me map out the solar system – twice!

If YOU came along to our Solar System Scale Model, why not drop me a line with your thoughts and comments? It would be great to hear from you!

Finally, big thanks to The Westmorland Gazette, BBC Radio Cumbria, Lakeland Radio and The Bay for promoting the day!

One Comment on “The Big Day!”


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