The New England Fall Astronomy Festival (NEFAF) came back around from Friday, Sept. 14 to Saturday, Sept. 15 as it took visitors on a space adventure, hosted by the University of New Hampshire Observatory.
Speakers from across the United States presented on a variety of astronomy-related topics, from the Basics of Observational Astronomy, discussed by Curtis Rude of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society (NHAS), to Dark Matter and Dark Energy, presented by UNH graduate student Adam Dukehart. Throughout the event, visitors observed the sky through various telescopes, and learned about using their own telescopes with the help of a telescope clinic.
Alongside the presentations, many of the events were aimed at children. At the festival’s entrance, children could get a NEFAF “AstroScavenger Hunt” sheet to fill out throughout the day. Face painting, a Hands-on Activity Center and fun science experiments in the form of “AstroGames” entertained the younger astronomy enthusiasts as well. There was even a separate program for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to earn space-themed badges.
NEFAF did not limit its audience to New England residents. Lindsey Magmelli was taking a vacation away from her home in Cleveland, Ohio when her family decided to visit the festival.
“My husband and I are both physicists, we were looking for things to do, and we found a website and decided to come check it out,” Magmelli said. “I think [the festival] is really family friendly, there are a lot of activities for both young and advanced astronomers.”
Magmelli enjoyed the event as a physicist, and found that her daughter was not at all bored, despite her young age.
“I, myself, am an amateur, and my husband is a bit more knowledgeable, so it seems like it caters for both of us,” she said. “And a lot of interest for my little girl, who is almost three years old. I find it really interesting and well thought-out.”
Mike Townsend, a member of New Hampshire Astronomical Society (NHAS) who has volunteered at NEFAF for three years, volunteered at the telescope clinic, educating people on how to use telescopes for sky observation.
“[NEFAF] introduces people to science, introduces children to science,” Townsend said. “STEM curriculum is very important now, and I think America is falling behind a little bit in science and math. I think it is important we get children interested in science and math and get adults interested in science and math and, you know, the advancement of technology and knowledge.”
Hanna Wasacz decided to volunteer after her astronomy professor brought it up in class. She is a first-year student majoring in musical theater, and this Saturday she found herself face painting for NEFAF visitors.
“[The festival] is amazing, the kids love it!” she said. “It’s nice seeing them so interested about [astronomy].”
Ed Ting also runs a telescope clinic at NEFAF, but his involvement with New England Astronomical Society goes back over 25 years. A member of NHAS since 1996, Ting served as its president in 2000. He presently volunteers at many astronomical events like planetarium showings and stargazing field trips.
“I am surprised how many people haven’t seen the moon through the telescope,” he said. “Nobody ever forgets it the first time they look at the moon or the rings of Saturn. I like to be that person that gives that experience.”