Monday, July 15, 2013

Launch Pad workshop: Day 1

I'm in Laramie, Wyoming, this week on the campus of the University of Wyoming for the Launch Pad astronomy workshop for science-fiction writers. We have a fantastic and diverse group of 14 attendees and three personable and knowledgeable instructors. Yesterday was a travel day from Denver; everyone flew into DIA. Then it was two hours up the road to Laramie. Today, we started the workshop.

The morning session was used for introductions and a talk about just how big space really is. To paraphrase Douglas Adams: It's big. Really big. Mind-bogglingly big. Part of the lecture involved this video right here, which was made in 1977 and holds up very well today:

After lunch, we discussed two aspects of astronomy that affect us here on Earth every day: seasons and moon cycles. I admit that I had been carrying around a misconception my whole life about what causes the seasons. I knew the seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth's axis, but I did not know that they're also caused by the angle of the sunlight hitting a given spot. A direct hit from the sun creates more intense heat. But in winter, sunlight hits the Earth at an angle and becomes diffused over a greater area, and there's less heat as a result. We finished up the afternoon with a talk about our solar system.

Because the forecast called for clouds this evening, we rescheduled our telescope time for tomorrow and went to see Pacific Rim instead. Robots vs. Monsters. The movie strikes me as a high-quality version of Power Rangers, but it's a lot of fun if you don't think too hard about it.

And now it's time for shower and bed.

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