Deep Astronomy

  • March 18, 2013

    Guinness World Record Attempt for Largest Astronomy Lesson

    I have to admit, I had no idea there was such a thing as a world record for largest astronomy lesson. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised though. There's a record for "Furthest Eye Popper," "Stretchiest Skin" and "Heaviest Car Balanced on Head," so why not have a record for the largest astronomy lesson?

    The rules were pretty simple: the lesson needed to be 30 minutes long, and if anyone left the cordoned-off area, they would be subtracted from the final count. The lesson would be one designed by the STScI STEM team and would be given by Dr. Frank Summers and Dan McCallister. The lesson itself was a simple light and color lab designed to introduce people to the importance of filters in astronomy, along with how astronomers use various colors of light from distant objects to learn more about what they are.

    People were very excited when going in. We had a long line of people waiting to get in and as we waited for it to get dark (another requirement for an astronomy lesson). As that was happening, I got the bright idea to try to capture it with a live stream via a Google Hangout On Air. I was really pushing it because the wi-fi signal strength dropped dramatically as soon as I left the NASA Experience Tent, but it was barely strong enough to keep going. The stream dropped out once and I had to restart, but I was able to capture it even though the quality wasn't that great.

    Going forward, I learned a lot about how to improve the quality of streaming outside events like this. First off, I'll use a 4G LTE connection since that worked very well at the virtual star party held immediately after this event, and I have better cameras now.

    Still, the experience was awesome. I had about 25 live viewers with whom I could interact with while it was going on and we captured the event for posterity, even though the quality wasn't so great.

    Oh yeah, and we broke the record! 526 people sat in the dark and learned about light and color. Here's the video: