Sputnik Fest 2012

This past Saturday was no ordinary Saturday. I didn’t go camping or fishing, or cut the grass, or go to the mall. No, Amy and I decided to celebrate an event that landed Manitowoc, WI, right in the middle of the Space Race in 1962.

We’re not sure if it’s the weather or the water, but people in Wisconsin are always looking for an excuse to get out and enjoy the decent weather while it lasts. When we heard about last Saturday’s Sputnik Fest 2012, we decided it was just one of those celebrations that the AstroBabes couldn’t miss.

It turns out that on September 6, 1962, a 20-pound chunk of the disintegrating Sputnik IV landed right in the middle of the intersection of Eighth and Park streets in Manitowoc, WI. For the past five years, the city has hosted a Sputnik Festival at that intersection, a festival which has twice been recognized by Reader’s Digest as one of the Top Five Funkiest Festivals in the U.S.

We watched the Ms. Space Debris Pageant to see who would reign over all that is Sputnik for the upcoming year. We saw otherwise perfectly normal people decorate themselves in aluminum foil. We marveled at the winners of the Cosmic Cake Contest and petted a few alien pets. There were lots of vendors, good food, and, of course, beer. And for the first time in our lives, Amy and I ate a barbeque chicken sandwich topped with coleslaw.

When it was all over, we were not exactly sure what the Star Wars characters or the aluminum foil hats or Star Trek collector plates had to do with Sputnik IV, the Cold War, or the race to put a man on the moon – but one thing for sure, it was definitely fun. We’ve posted some of our favorite pictures under Lynn & Amy Adventures – enjoy!


The Big Picture

Last week I attended the July meeting for the local astronomy club. Dick, one of the clubs’ long-time members, gave a talk on his experiences while earning the Astronomical League’s Local Galaxy Group & Neighborhood Introduction certificate.

As I sat there listening to his talk, I began to realize that, in all my years of studying and observing and hanging around with other amateur astronomers, I never gave much serious thought to what was just outside our galaxy. By basically ignoring the Local Group, I’m really missing the big picture.

I needed to regain that perspective – that we’re bound to these 54+ galaxies by a gravitational center, and that the Messier Marathon is more than just trying to locate fuzzy objects in the night sky.

Dick’s talk has got me curious about the Local Group, and it is research for the future. That’s one of the things that makes astronomy such a great hobby – just when I think I’ve started to figure everything out, a whole new door opens up and blows me away!


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