Over 600 people gave up their Saturday night to stare at the sky and listen to talks about meteors, comets and cosmic hydrogen mapping.
Though fortune of the weather didn’t play out in favour of some stargazing, Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory astronomy Ken Tapping said some did report seeing a few Perseid meteors at the observatory during its event Saturday night.
“And I was listening to the car radio on the way home, tuned to 102.3 and heard quite a few meteors on there,” Tapping said, referring to a phenomenon in which radio frequencies can bounce off the intense heat of meteors passing through the atmosphere.
Tapping’s station of choice for listening to the meteors is Sunny 102 FM in Modesto, California.
“And our radio meteor demo we had set up in the lunchroom did produce a few.”
Tapping, who spoke Saturday night about “deep impact” events, said he was impressed with the turnout to the event.
“That’s pretty stunning,” Tapping said. “I think it was particularly so after a week of smoke and cloud and poor prospects of seeing anything.”
Tapping said he’s heard plenty of positive remarks about the event, even without visibility of the skies above.
“People had a good time; people stuck around afterwards to look at the stars,” he said. “Obviously a lot of people wanted to come out to the observatory just to have a chat with a few scientists, which was great.”
The Perseid viewing event has largely taken over from the open houses the observatory has held in the past, which he said came with a “colossal” amount of organization for those at the observatory. Even Saturday night’s event meant a fair bit of extra work on the side for scientists.
“It was exciting, but I really slept well afterwards,” Tapping said with a laugh.
At the event, there were several talks by local scientists on things like meteors, comets and the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, a hydrogen mapping tool at the observatory.
“We try to do these things when we can,” Tapping said.
“It’s really marvellous to see people coming out to find out what’s going on. … You work all week, you’ve got two days before you go back to work, so you spend one of them coming out here with the family. I mean, that’s very gratifying for us.”
It’s also a good sign for Tapping, who spoke to the importance of science communication in a society that has fostered “a lot of misunderstanding” about science for a number of years.
“I think the obligation, very largely, is on us as scientists to communicate what we’re up to as part of the community,” Tapping said.
“We’re members of the community, too, and this is what we, do and it’s fun and, this is why we do it, and this is how it fits into the sort of broader tapestry of the Canadian way of life.
“It’s all part of the same thing. It’s not something separate.”