“Oh, the moon has a face and it shines on the lake …”
About 80 GLAS Education supporters and friends boarded Lake Geneva Cruise Line’s Belle of the Lake for a three-hour Moonlight Cruise of Geneva Lake with guided tours of the night sky and constellations on Oct. 1.
The cruise promoted GLAS Education’s Dark Skies Office, and also spread the word about GLAS Education and its work to expand Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math education.
Cruise passengers enjoyed hors d’oeuvres from Green Grocer of Williams Bay and pro bono cocktails provided by Tito’s Vodka.
In addition to socializing, guests also visited stations around the boat where GLAS staff and volunteers presented information about GLAS Education and its projects and goals. Each guest received a passport which they signed. On the passport was a list of the six stations around the boat. As passengers visited each station, they marked the corresponding checkboxes on the passport with pencils thoughtfully provided at the start of the cruise.
The six stations were:
– Dark Skies, where guests learned about GLAS’s efforts to raise awareness about light pollution.
-LENSS, or Lake Environment Night Sky Survey, in which GLAS students use night sky monitors they build themselves to track light pollution levels around Geneva Lake.
-Education Programs, where visitors can see and experience the accessible education materials developed by GLAS for the blind and visually impaired.
-The GLAS Table, where guests learned about GLAS and its mission.
-Ask an Astronomer, where experienced skywatchers answered questions about the cosmos.
-Spot a Constellation, where, after dark on the boat’s open air bow, Katya Gozman, a graduate astrophysics student at the University of Michigan, and James Cudworth, son of Yerkes Observatory emeritus astronomer Kyle Cudworth, gave guests a constellation and star tour of the sky above Geneva Lake.
The cruise keynote speaker was John Meredith, an award-winning landscape architect with a landscaping business in Door County, Wis. He is also the older brother of Kate Meredith, director and president of GLAS Education. John earned his Wisconsin landscape architecture license in 1995 and has practiced in Door County for the past 20 years. While landscaping and dark skies may seem worlds apart, John said he encourages his clients to use low-level lighting options to preserve dark skies.
Dark skies are important to him. John and his family have hosted a star party during the Perseids meteor shower each August on their farm for the past seven years.
John is now exploring developing a dark sky venue specific for astrotourism. Many of his clients are from Chicago. He said they tell him that they cannot believe how dark the sky is when they visit Door County.
Sister Kate followed up John’s presentation with an introduction to astrotourism and its future. Many stars and constellations are hidden to city dwellers behind the orange glow of urban lighting. Being able to see them against the velvet black sky might be a tourist draw, she said.
An added bonus was a short talk by Katie Corbett, GLAS’s media and marketing consultant, about her adventure on astronomy. Katie is blind, but she had the intellectual chops to ace a college-level astronomy course, despite the fact that she was majoring in journalism.
At the end of the cruise, passengers turned in their marked off passports which were placed in a bin and mixed up for a raffle drawing. A winning passport was randomly selected at the end of the cruise. The prize was a pair of handsome Tito’s Vodka lawn chairs.