Discover the Universe: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
So far, Astronomy magazine’s Discover the Universe program has helped groups put on sidewalk astronomy events in the United States, Canada, and Europe. We can now add another continent to the list, as I’ve just heard back from Tuan Duy, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Amateur Astronomy Club in Vietnam, which put on a number of great events this summer, including one for June’s total lunar eclipse, which featured the most dramatic images and description.
Astronomy is quite a new subject in Vietnam, so for now, the Ho Chi Minh City Amateur Astronomy Club (HAAC) focuses on advancing general astronomy information through skygazing. From seminars to sidewalk observations, we are doing our best to spread the knowledge of the stars to the community. So far in 2011, the HAAC has organized three major sky parties: the Fourth Annual Astronomy Camp of HAAC in March, an evening of the 30 Nights of StarPeace in Global Astronomy Month 2011 in April, and the Total Lunar Eclipse Observation Night on June 15/16.
On June 15, the HAAC began the sidewalk observing in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city. We ended up with more than 100 participants, including children and adults, and had five different telescopes (plus binoculars and printed materials from Astronomy) on hand. We wanted to take advantage of the total lunar eclipse that would occur in the early morning of June 16, which will be one of the longest total lunar eclipses in the 21st century. We prepared carefully and had banners and posters ready that provided full and clear astronomy-related information.
The Ho Chi Minh Amateur Astronomy Club (HAAC) took advantage of a spectacular lunar eclipse to help entice people into astronomy. // All photos by HAAC
The sky became cloudy suddenly, and an unexpected heavy rain came after. While waiting for a clear sky, we made up a brief but exciting talk for the children, and a technical team started to prepare the equipment for the upcoming observation. Next, HAAC members shared presentations about the Moon, its phases, how eclipses work, etc.
By the time the presentations finished, the lunar eclipse was starting. The sky was very clear after the heavy rain. When the red Moon showed up, everybody observed it with excitement. The technical team also did their job — taking pictures. All participants witnessed all the stages of the total lunar eclipse. Some HAAC members also helped them understand the changes in color on the Moon’s surface and showed them how to take pictures through telescopes.
An HAAC member helps star party participants use the telescope. By hosting their event in the largest city in Vietnam, the HAAC attracted a great number of people who otherwise might never have experienced the thrill of astronomy.
The HAAC updated and posted the eclipse happenings with other sister astronomy clubs and observers worldwide, as well, through emails, websites, telephone calls, messengers, tweets, etc. It was wonderful to share the fantastic lunar eclipse not only with local friends, but also with companions around the world.