GMTO exhibits at the City of Astronomy’s AstroFest 2018

The City of Astronomy collaboration was formed in 2016 and comprised ten of the institutions in Pasadena that are involved in astronomy – be it telescope construction or astronomical research. It included GMTO, as well as Carnegie Observatories, Caltech, TMT, the Planetary Society, Mt Wilson Observatory and others. In response to a request from the Mayor of Pasadena, Terry Tornek, the City of Astronomy held the first Astronomy Week in October of 2016 and it was a great success.

This year’s Astronomy Week began on Saturday, July 14, when GMTO and other members of the City of Astronomy group (now expanded to 24 different STEAM organizations) brought exhibits and activities to the Pasadena Convention Center for AstroFest 2018.

Pasadena Mayor, Terry Tornek, with GMTO engineers Tony Hebert and Trupti Ranka. Image credit: Amanda Kocz

Throughout the afternoon, this family-friendly and free event welcomed 2,700 people, including Mayor Tornek. GMTO’s volunteers enjoyed showing visitors our virtual reality system, the 3D model of the central mirror and our ever-popular hologram. Other activities included planetarium shows by Carnegie Observatories and Kidspace Children’s Museum and telescope viewing during the afternoon and late into the evening with Caltech.

A young visitor interacts with the GMT hologram. Image credit: Terry Oh Photography.

We were impressed by the number of people who attended AstroFest, and the level of knowledge about astronomy and space from some of the younger children. Some visitors had been to Carnegie Observatories’ Open House and so were well-versed about the Giant Magellan Telescope. Others had not heard of the project and were interested to learn that our engineers work locally. We had long conversations with many visitors, and we found that people enjoyed talking in detail with our engineers about their day-to-day work, as well as the telescope itself.

GMT’s table at AstroFest. Image credit: Terry Oh Photography.

The event was energizing to our volunteers, who appreciated the chance to share their work with those keenly interested. We will take this energy with us back to the office and look forward to the next opportunity to talk with the community.

Engineer Heidy Kelman shows visitors the GMT virtual reality system.

The activities of Astronomy Week didn’t end with AstroFest. Throughout the week, there were two Astronomy on Tap events, two public lectures, more stargazing, and the opening of the MOONS exhibit at the ArtCenter.

GMTO’s volunteers for AstroFest were Francisco Aguayo, James Fanson, Tony Hebert, Damien Jemison, Heidy Kelman, Amanda Kocz, Patrick McCarthy, Trupti Ranka, Amanda Santana, and Nune Wheeler.

More images from Terry Oh Photography can be viewed here.