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Backyard Astronomy Panel (Dragoncon)

This panel was not what I expected it to be. I was hoping it would be stuff we could do from our backyard without telescopes or much brain power. Our gang sometimes meets for meteor showers; we just hang out at the beach chatting, drinking cocoa, and flying kites while watching for shooting stars. There is a great beach about 30 or 40 minutes away that's perfect for star watching because there are no trees blocking one's view and unlike most of our beaches there's hardly any light pollution there. Basically from this panel I just wanted more cool stuff I could goof around with at Toaster's giant yard next bonfire. (Preferably something involving green laser pointers.)

Turns out the panel was cohosted by Pamela Gay formerly of Slacker Astronomy, so most of the backyard activities involved variable stars (two other Slacker Astronomy podcasters worked with variable stars) and low level telescopes. It was still pretty interesting, but a bit above my level of commitment as I don't have a telescope. On the bright side - one of my favorite Slacker Astronomy episodes was all about getting involved in the science of astronomy, so it is a topic I am interested in. One thing I've always loved about astronomy is that some of the *major* discoveries are made by normal people who like to look up. There are all sorts of ways you can participate, for example if you are good with photoshop, you can work with NASA photographs to colorize raw images. I tried to be more involved by doing SETI@Home. So as sleepy as I was, I did *try* to pay attention to ways the panel said I could contribute. I should have taken better notes. :( I did manage to remember two websites, and one of my other friends who took notes sent me the links.

I'm learning to do Galaxy Zoo right now. It's easy and actually really fun. I don't know that I will do Citizen Sky or adopt a variable star as I appear to have commitment issues and am lazy, but who knows!

Galaxy Zoo 2
"The Galaxy Zoo files contain almost a quarter of a million galaxies which have been imaged with a camera attached to a robotic telescope the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, no less). In order to understand how these galaxies — and our own — formed, we need your help to classify them according to their shapes — a task at which your brain is better than even the fastest computer."

Citizen Sky
"Help us solve the mystery of epsilon Aurigae, a star that has baffled scientists since 1821. You don’t need any prior scientific training— we will give you all of the tools you need to become a citizen scientist. Citizen Sky is a citizen science project providing you with a chance to do real scientific research. We are seeking to understand a star that has been a mystery to scientists for many years. This star is epsilon Aurigae, a very interesting, very bright star located in the constellation Auriga, the charioteer. This star is bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye even in the most light-polluted cities, and it is visible every fall, winter, and spring. Epsilon Aurigae is a variable star—this means it changes in brightness over time. Collecting data on these changes can help us understand the star. "

Pamela said something particularly interesting - that she didn't think alien life would be discovered via radio/SETI. Instead she thinks it will be from spectral analysis of exoplanets revealing pollution in their skies. (She said it much better.)


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 12th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
I know this is only extremely vaguely related to this post, but someone on my friends list posted the video to the DragonCon Triller Video and I thought you would like the link.

Are you in there? I've only watched it once and was having a hard time with the camera blur in places.
Sep. 13th, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
I was there!! I'm in the second row, one of the Jayne hats. :)

More specifically, I'm in a green Blue-Sun tshirt and beige pants. I'm behind a zombie and next to a lady in a fancy ball gown that I had to keep watching else I would step on it. Consequently, I'm staring at the floor a lot! LOL!

You can't see much of me in that video, but there's another video where you see a lot of me. I'm going to be posting a link to them.

It was sooooo much fun!! I'm so glad I got to participate. Plus, the dance itself is a lot of fun to do. I am really happy that I can do that - I keep hoping a Flash Mob will break out at Publix or something. There's a great website called Thrill the World that teaches you the steps. :)

I'm going to post about the experience, too. I'm trying to do one convention post a day, there's so much to try to remember, and I'm using this as my own diary, too. :)
Sep. 13th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
I spotted you after the hint. The lighting is poor in that video and your hair looks a lot darker than it does in most of your photos. I'm glad you got to be there; I know you were working pretty hard on learning the steps!

Another friend of mine posted a lot of photos from the con and I went up to my husband and started pouting at him about wanting to go to DragonCon. The last time I was there was the NASFiC in 1995, one of the first years they were big. It's time to scrape the money and coverage at the store to go back, I think.
Sep. 13th, 2009 04:57 am (UTC)
Okay, I just posted a long rambling post about how much fun Thriller was. I also posted links to some videos where I'm easier to spot. :)

I hope you get to go next year!! Could you hand out business cards and write off the trip??
Sep. 13th, 2009 05:44 am (UTC)
I wish!!! I'd have to be a dealer to pull that off at DragonCon and you don't want to know the booth costs there!!! (They were bad back when Steve Yoder of Bard's Tales was sharing a booth there, and that was '93!)

I can write off GAMA since it's a Trade Show, and if I could afford to go, GenCon Indy since a large number of games debut there. All other Cons I have to work (either be part of the ConStaff or a Dealer) to get the tax-break.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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