Summer/Winter Solstice Festival 2015

During Solstice the whole world is invited to join in and celebrate

Its Solstice time again! The Solstice happens twice, once in summer and once in winter, each year when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the North or South Pole. Ready for some fun?

Here in Australia, during OUR summer, the day of the ‘Summer Solstice’ is the longest day of the year. The summer solstice usually occurs on 21 December, but can occur between 20 and 22 December. Aussie solstice happens at 2.47pm December 22. Now, this has grown into a BIG event, especially on our Facebok pages.


A sun

First… a word from our promoters Pamela Shivak and John O’Neal (USA). Both experienced observers and respected affiliates of the world’s finest astronomical institutions. The festival will encompass BOTH solstice dates. In June, northern hemisphere participants can do outside venues while Southern Hemisphere participants can schedule indoor activities, if weather warrants that.

On the December date, the northerners can host indoor or virtual events and presentations while, our southern hemisphere participants can host their WORLDWIDE SOLSTICE FESTIVAL during their local summertime.

If there is no local festival in your area, clubs and individuals can partner with Metroparks, civic groups and/or business interests to start their own festival. You can invite musicians, bands, artists, crafts people, food vendors, solar power representatives, etc. Let your imagination be your guide!

Involve Everybody

You can partner with Metro parks, Museums, libraries, your local NASA office, etc, etc.The sky is the limit. You have the freedom to make your WORLDWIDE SOLSTICE FESTIVAL EXACTLY what YOU want it to be…” The sky is truly the limit,” Pam said.

All we ask is that you share your images of your Festival with us here at SOLARACTIVITY on our WORLDWIDE SOLSTICE FESTIVAL event page at …. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1534186386850607/

As co-convenor John O’Neal says: “We want people in other parts of the world to wake up June 21st and see the excitement, the crowd, the gear and the sun in a faraway exotic land, celebrating a solstice that combines ancient pagan beliefs and modern scientific principles. We want them to see the smiling faces and the merriment, both in images, maybe some video feeds, etc….We want the excitement of your kickoff to set the stage for what will come as the solstice sun flows round the world…..”

 Holding an Event 

Ok, so you’ve decided to get involved with the inaugural WORLD WIDE SOLSTICE EVENT 2015 and show the Sun to your family and friends. Even go that one step further and hold a public viewing event. Great! That’s step one out of the way, making the decision to do it!

I’ve been running successful public outreach events for a very long time and conducted an equal number of viewing sessions through the public school system here in Australia. It doesn’t matter what age a person is – when anyone looks at the night sky through a telescope they’re all kids again with that look of amazement and sense of awe that never wanes.

Ok, so you wanna hold a Solar Viewing Day on June 21 with the rest of the world and don’t know what to do or how to go about it. Here are a few tips, pointers and suggestions to help. If you need more, or clarification on any of these points, email me davereneke@gmail.com

Holding A Home Viewing Session

Just get your family out under the Sun and enjoy it. tell us on Facebook what you thought OK?

Easy Peasy – just set up your scope in the backyard, bung on the solar filter and get the gang out on the lawn. Cover the finder or remove it completely, use only the small opening in the top cap on your scope to let sunlight through to save your optics OK.

Solar viewing glasses are good here if you’re short on scopes or people. Explain what is being seen, a little about how the filter works and finish up getting a few shots of the crew to post to the Facebook page here: Facebook Solstice Page

Holding a Small Size Yard Event

Friends and neighbours combine with your family for a casual sky day

OK, a little bit more planning needed here but oh boy…such a big payoff! This could be your private thing or for your Astro club. Get a few signs organised to go up on power poles or buildings in your town that motorists driving by can see. Just say ‘FREE SOLAR VIEWING TODAY’ and the address, and wait for the traffic. It’s just like advertising a garage sale (yard sale) but tons more fun.

You are using your front yard OK. Get your Astro buddies to bring scopes along, correctly filtered of course. If no filters then just do solar projection onto white A4 paper using your scope or binos. Even fashion a simple pin-hole camera. Not as effective but at least it works. Combining projection with actual solar viewing is magic. Set up on your lawn and have a couple pair of solar glasses handy to show visitors while they wait a turn at the scope. Talk to people about the Sun. They love it!

Explain what sunspots are, prominences etc but use SIMPLE language OK. A lot of people have never heard those terms before. Rip a couple of Sun pics out of an old Astronomy magazine – you can also download and print one – and use it to describe the Sun. We find an image is a good method. These home events are fun and work well, we’ve had amazing numbers of people just pull up after seeing “something: going on”…the old curiosity thing.

Also, run off a large number of flyers telling people you have an astronomy club and invite anyone interested to come to a club viewing night. These are great places to get new members. Hey, don’t forget to send in FB updates and a few pics/video on the day OK?

Holding a Large Public Event

“Build it and they will come” …its true, try it!

Where do I do this you ask? I have no hall orfield. Yes you have but you just don’t know it. Places we’ve used are school football ovals, local parks, neighbour’s farm, etc… even on the beach if needed. Again, get a few signs organised to go up on power poles or buildings in your town. Contact your local newspaper, they will almost always run a story on your upcoming event as its local. They will write your story – or better still, do what I do, make up your text yourself or get a buddy to help you. You have more control over what it says and it helps prevent mistakes.

Never send a story like this in to a newspaper office with the heading PRESS RELEASE…that is for general news items. You stand a good chance of it being missed completely or worse, getting thrown out unread. Instead call it ‘STORY OPPORTUNITY’ – it’s a more user friendly term and will get noticed more among all the other press releases offices get. Always give no less than 2 weeks lead time to anything you send to a newspaper to give yourself the best chance of it getting printed.

Over my time in astronomy I’ve had I guess 500 stories done that I’ve sent in to newspapers and mags with a publication rate of around 80% – simply because I did two things, kept it short and made it sound it exciting. Gloss it up, use terms like “amazing sights” or “one time only opportunity” or maybe words like “Family friendly” – a good suggestion too is to make sure you indicate its “Safe” as in “safe solar viewing”… using “modern solar technology”….etc. You get the picture.

Organisation and some good well placed equipment are the key elements here

Newspapers always suffer with lack of editorial space and your story will have a better chance of success if you keep the word count to around 300 words tops. Don’t forget a photo…they love ‘em. Take one of you or your buddies, or do what a lot of people do, find one on Google images that reflects what your event is all about. Don’t forget to add credits for the pics OK.

With a large event it is imperative you have order. Don’t just let visitors to your site roam around trying to figure out what to look at. What we do is have one scope on the Sun with an ordinary Baader type filter. This shows sunspots and as they look through your scope have the operator explain what sunspots are, how big these ones might be and why we can now view them safely like this. Forget to do this and you’ve lost momentum. Hit ‘em with sizes and distances too, its impressive.

For National Science week one US student Anna Matchett and her teacher built a solar funnel to be used for solar viewing. Cr Sydney University

Use another scope, a smallish refractor is good, with someone demonstrating solar projection onto a white card. If you have access to a’ solar funnel’ even better. Again explain spots, sizes etc and don’t forget to let everyone know NOT to look at the sun unprotected. Swap operators around through the day to prevent lethargy and boredom. Maybe with your guidance a few might like to take a personal ‘snapshot’ through the eyepiece with their camera phone? Again send in to the FB page your update images and videos.

Adding Extra Dimensions To Your Event

  1. Get On TV: Contact your regional TV station and tell them what you are doing. Explain how VISUALLY interesting this will be (they loooove the word visual) and email your press release…Oh sorry, that’s a nasty word remember. Email ‘em your ‘Story Opportunity’ editorial.
  2. Use Radio: Do the same with your local radio station. They can help add a couple of hundred more visitors to your event. Better still, do what I do – in your email to them add your name and phone number and indicate you are willing to talk on air anytime before the big day. It’s called a ‘human interest’ story and radio cannot get enough of them.
  3. Invite a Local Face Painter: Wow, this is cool. I do this often. Get a competent painter who is good with young people to paint ‘sun faces’ on the kids. They might want to make it a small charge or ‘gold coin donation’ but Mum’s and Dad’s seriously don’t mind a few bucks for their kid’s pleasure. The kids will sell it for you anyway…in fact it’s kinda expected. It adds so much to your event. Use it as a fundraiser?
  4. Contact Your local Cancer Council or Similar: They can add an extra size dimension to your club’s scope displays by erecting a marquee or tent handing out small sun safety give-aways and rubbing on sunscreen to those present. Having a respected organisation like this with you also gives your event ‘implied credibility’ by mere association. Good for getting the media’s attention.

Invite Along Community Groups: You might even consider asking your local Apex, Rotary or Lions clubs to come along and fundraise by selling drinks and hot snacks. You’re helping charities like this who do great things for the community. These people again add to the festive aspect of the event and it just makes the whole event you put on more an attractive visitation proposition to those passing by.

Anyway, that’s my two cent’s worth. Hope you find something useful in these ideas and suggestions, maybe even throw in a few of your own.  www.davidreneke.com


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