The following was originally published May 1, 2011 at http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/community/member-blogs/30-nights-of-starpeace-in-nz.html
New Zealand was one of the last countries in the world this year to hold its StarPeace event, and what a night we had!!!
Members of the Levin Stargazers, Sharing Space and StarWalker set up 2 telescopes, cameras and a webcast laptop right in the heart of the busiest downtown area of our capital city, Wellington, and wowed the crowds with spectacular views of Saturn. It was an utterly incredible night, and one I will personally never forget. There's nothing like a crowd to draw a bigger crowd, and we had a constant stream of people lining up to have a look and, by the end of the night, around 500 people had stopped for a chat and a view of what is undoubtedly the public's favorite planet.
The reactions and comments from people were priceless, and are the main reason why we keep doing what we are doing. The comments ranged from the simple "Wow!" to "Oh my God! Are you serious?!!!" and many other, sometimes expletive-laden, reactions. I lost count of the number of people who thought we were tricking them by sticking a photo in the eyepiece! Some couldn't believe that we would just bring our scopes into town for people to look through for FREE!!! But every one of them was very grateful that we did, and I even had one man comment that "this alone made my trip into the city worthwhile!". One of the nearby cafe's even brought us out free drinks of hot chocolate for our efforts, which was very much appreciated!
We were kept busy on the telescopes all night, but did manage to get a few words in with China and Sri Lanka (Thilina!!!) via webcast. When the lines of people waiting started to get smaller, in true John Dobson style we would just call people over as they were passing by, and every one of them left with a smile on their face.
Many thanks to Paul Moss, Maria Heidemann (the StarWalker team) and Ray for the photos, webcast and video (see below). The other members of our team included Mike White (me), Mike Stapel and Ron Fisher. Looking forward to our next guerilla astronomy mission!
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