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On April 11th,Joan Chamberlin, Kerry Kertes, and Ron Thompson from Southern Maine Astronomers and Brian Stephenson, a senior astronomy student from Cape Elizabeth High School, boarded a ferry for North Haven Island with all their astronomy gear and activities in tow.

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Joan and Ron are waiting for the ferry.

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Kerry, Ron, and Brian are ready for GAM. Where’s the ferry?

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After an hour and ten minutes on the ferry, North Haven village is in sight.


Their hostess, Lisa Shields, greets them and takes them to the school, where they set up the solar telescopes, the big silver-domed portable planetarium, and some special hands on astronomy activities for kids and adults. Community members and some students start arriving for the fun around 1:00 PM.
Ron gives a talk about the sun and solar viewing safety. Then visitors begin looking through the telescopes, where they look at prominences and sun spots.

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Looking at the Sun

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Brian and Kerry showing the sun.

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Ron showing the sun.


In the gym, the Star Lab Planetarium has been set up for everyone to look at the stars. As Lisa, the North Haven hostess, describes it, “After entering through an igloo-like tunnel, we could see the stars begin to emerge, becoming more brilliant and more plentiful in the sky as our eyes adjusted to the blackness. Kerry pointed out constellations, the Milky Way and how it was so-named, which stars are hotter than others and why, and where planets are in relation to the stars at certain times of the year.
That evening, while waiting for the earth to rotate enough so that the sun would go down, Brian shared part of his light pollution study with students and adults.” Brian explained the Globe at Night project in hopes that maybe next year the students at this school might take part.

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Also during that day, Joan did several hands on activities with students and adults. Below are two photos of Joan making solar and lunar eclipses with kids using yard sticks and beads for Earth and the moon.

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Another hands on activity that kids loved involved making moon craters and Earth craters using pans of flour with cocoa powder on the top and dropping pebbles without looking to make craters. Below a little boy is dropping a “meteorite.”

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Joan and Brian also made Uncle Al’s planispheres with some of the kids and showed them how to use them. There were many very young children who needed lots of help, but older kids there all helped the little ones too. The photos below show the fun they had.

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Joan working with kids to make planesphere.


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Brian helping kids with planispheres.


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Kids making planispheres on Sun-Day


Activities went on from 1:00-5:00. Then everyone took a short break for a tour of the island and dinner. By 7:00 PM evening activities began. Joan gave a talk to a group of about 30 people about Astronomers Without Borders and the Virtual Telescope. After that talk, Brian talked about light pollution. Then it was time to go outside and look through the telescopes. Also, looking at Orion, people tried to figure out what the limiting magnitude of the sky was there at the school. Most people thought it was a limiting magnitude of about five or six. Many community members and students came to the star party. Lisa Shields, describes the event this way. “People moved from one telescope to another, exclaiming, “You’ve got to come see Saturn!”, “Joan has found the Leo Trio” (three galaxies near the Leo constellation, about 35 million light years from Earth) and “There’s another star beneath Orion’s belt!”
This was the end of a very long day, and all the astronomers were quite tired. They stayed at the houses of people on the island, who were very gracious hosts.
On Monday morning, the group met at the school for a full day of presentations, planetarium presentations, and solar viewing and talks. All four presenters were working non-stop to do presentations for children in grades kindergarten through grade 12.

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Ron and Brian showing the sun


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Joan doing pocket solar systems with a class

By 2:00 PM it was time to pack up and leave the beautiful island. Students helped pack up the portable planetarium, and the presenters headed for the ferry.

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Report by Joan Chamberlin with additions by Lisa Shields
Pictures by Lisa Shields and Joan Chamberlin