In addition to the Community Supported Agriculture program, one of the major components of my stretch experience was helping to organize a trip out to Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm with International Student Services. The event was held on August 13th for the Perseid meteor shower. Overall the event was successful – all 47 tickets sold (much more quickly than I had anticipated), everyone arrived on time for the bus and had waivers filled out, there was a great meal and craft beer, and everyone got back to campus safely. However, that is not to say there weren’t some hiccups. The weather for the event was quite poor – especially for the purpose of stargazing (smoke in the air, thunder and lightning, not to mention it was freezing!). This meant that last minute there had to be changes made to the programming so that the event was still enjoyable. Luckily, there was a back-up plan and there were two great lectures given, the first by an astrophysics student about galaxies and the universe, and the second by a mechanical engineering student about telescopes.
Some of the highlights from the lectures:
- It is estimated that there are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe
- If you were to map out the 13.7 billion year lifetime of the universe on a 12 month calendar (the cosmic calendar, as it is known) , with the big bang happening at 12:00am on January 1st, modern humans would only come in to existence at 11:54pm on December 31st. The duration of an average human life would be .16 seconds
- An anecdote about intelligence – we share 99% of our DNA with apes and they are only capable of what a preschool age child might be able to do (simple tasks like sign language, drawing, taking directions) – but consider if there was a species who was just 1% different than us in the direction we are different from apes. They may be so superior in their intelligence that you could take Stephen Hawking and put him in front of that species and they would be saying “Aw! How cute he can do astrophysics in his head!” as though it was child’s play
- You can get a decent telescope setup including a tripod for around the same price as a good quality camera (~$600)
Even though it was disappointing to not have been able to see the meteor shower due to the weather, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and have had a good time. There will be a follow-up event evaluation sent out through International Student Services, so that I will get formal feedback in the upcoming weeks.