Huge soap bubbles and Saturn: how the observatory celebrated Researchers’ Night Festival

Kairi janson | 13.10.2017

On the last week of September (from 25 to 29) 2017 Tartu Observatory celebrated Researchers’ Night Festival with two events. Among many other things, people could see huge soap bubbles, Saturn and constellations.

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The first event took place at Tartu Observatory Visitor Centre on Wednesday, 27 September. The observatory’s team joined forces with young scientists from Nõo Secondary Science Gymnasium. Together they held a workshop for the children of Nõo Primary School and the preschool children of Nõo parish.

In the workshop, huge soap bubbles were made and they were really exciting for the children. “The preschool children didn’t want to let us go and the older ones didn’t want to leave themselves,” said Tanel Liira, development manager of the visitor centre.

In his opinion it is important to start familiarizing with science already as a child. „Children talk at home with excitement and enthusiasm, involving their parents, sisters and brothers, grandparents, and dream by themselves as well. Maybe we can get them interested and perhaps that will bring them back to our house some day – and not only as visitors.”

On Friday, 29 September people of all ages could get to know the space a bit better in the visitor centre. The sky was clear that night and Saturn and the Moon could be seen. One of the most exciting things seemed to be the largest telescope in the Nordic Countries, but the visitors could also observe the sky with a portable telescope. On the way from the main house to the large telescope tower the visitors were introduced some constellations and stars that are easy to find. Among others, Pole Star, the Little and Big Dippers, Cassiopeia, Cygnus the Swan, Lyra, Vega, and others could be seen.

In the Stellarium, the visitors could see the virtual planetarium show “Starry night”. It shows the stars currently visible in Estonian sky and in other locations on Earth, close-ups of other planets and galaxies. People were also showed laboratories, among them the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) laboratory and the ground station for satellite communication. The last one was also used for receiving telemetry data from student satellite ESTCube-1.

The visitors could participate in a workshop about holograms, Moon phases, Morse code, spectrometer and rocket flying. The night also included an interesting scientific lecture: “The robots have taken my job – astronomers’ special” held by Tiit Sepp.

This year’s Researchers’ Night Festival was already the 12th in a row.  More than 900 science events took place all over Estonia.

Tartu Observatory Visitor Centre welcomes everyone to participate in other public observation nights as well. Everyone is also expected to come to the opening of the new yard on a Mother’s Day event in spring. It is a few months away, but that only means it is easier to make plans to come!