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The end of the world

This last week has been manic. Next week is half term here so the local schools will be on holiday and the Visitor Centre will be busy (I've got two groups of visitors coming myself). One of my jobs this week has been to organise Ask an Astronomer helpers again. Unfortunately, most of the usual helpers have either left the Observatory and gone onto other jobs, are out of the country, or are really busy themselves. Not a single student has volunteered to help out, so I'm going to be doing three out of five sessions at this rate! You'd think half an hour wasn't too much to ask...

On Tuesday I gave my first school's talk. Twice. It would have been three times, but a university admissions person showed up to speak to the entire lower sixth (17-yr olds) during the last lesson of the day, so I got to finish earlier than planned. (I didn't mind too much, even though it took nearly two and a half hours to get there, as it meant I could stop off at the model shop in Manchester on my way home, I now have a rocket with a camera mounted in the nose cone!) It was quite scary though, as I've never given a talk to this sort of audience before. Normally, the people I'm speaking to had chosen to be there, this lot were told to come. I was even more nervous when the teacher decided to leave me to it! Bear in mind that I have no training in this sort of thing at all. I'm still not sure that it was a good idea. When we take out the planetarium the teachers sometimes see it as an hour off so they sit there in the dark and let the kids run riot, but at least they are there and can step in if things really do get out of hand. I'm going back in two weeks to do the same thing for some other classes, hopefully it will go a bit better. This is all part of the Researcher in Residence scheme which gets young researchers in science and engineering into schools to try and show that it can be fun and you don't have to be a geek with a lab coat and a comb-over to be good at it. Not sure I'm the best role model...

Thursday was another lab day in Manchester. It took over two hours to get there, and three to get back. I arrived at Jodrell at half seven in the eveing, had a cup of tea with Kim, that evening's duty controller, and then went home for some sleep. After ten hours solid I woke up feeling quite good, but I was yawning again by this afternoon. Thank goodness I don't have to do that again.

There are plenty more events coming up that I really have to start thinking about. In March there is a solar eclipse for which I'm putting on an event for local schools. Even though it is only partial here, it's a good excuse to teach them about how eclipses work. I've been asked to give a talk to some primary school children in National Science Week. I'm also organising an Astronomy & Space challenge day for Girl Guides in May, this is part of the preparation for a Go For It! pack which I am helping to write. These are challenge packs for patrol groups to do over a few weeks at their normal meetings and this one is based around astronomy. After that there is the flower show at Tatton Park where the Spaced Out group are going to have a garden. They've asked for some astronomers to be there to talk to people about the science behind it, so I'll probably be there for a couple of days. There's also going to be a star party in August to coincide with the Perseids, if I can get it organised.

On top of all that, I have work to do and observations to take care of as well! During February and March I have a total of seven telescope sessions which I have to schedule. Two have been observed already, the next run is on Tuesday, and today I finished off the schedules for the rest of them. Hang on, this is what I'm supposed to be doing, right?! Crumbs, my thesis has to be finished by September, so I'd better get a move on :-)

Posted by Megan on Friday 17th Feb 2006 (21:40 UTC) | Add a comment | Permalink


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