Talking at Sterrenwacht Limburg

A few years ago, when the discovery of Hanny’s Voorwerp was still fairly new, I was asked to speak about it (twice even) at Heerlen’s very own science centre – back then called ‘eXplorion’. Since then we’ve kept in touch and I recently mentioned the reopening of ‘Sterrenwacht Limburg’. Last month, I was asked to speak again, for the amateur astronomers of the Astroforum. I would later find out that they had organised a whole stargazing weekend here…

In fact, ‘new boss’ Norbert had asked me two days prior the event, but I like spontaneous things. I had recently updated my slides and it seemed a laidback meeting, with an invitation to the barbecue as well. As this is my hometown we’re talking about, I cycled. Upon arrival I said hi to the group of about 30 people enjoying the sunshine. I grabbed a chair and quickly learned that this group was doing what I usually do with my Galaxy Zoo friends. Only I was the newbie now – how cool!

So we chatted, had some drinks and food and looked at the sky. I met Irving, who was almost too shy to ask for a picture with me (almost – see the result, thanks for sharing it Irving!) And I gotten to know the lovely doctor Jan Willem, who would later lend me his coat as I stayed a little longer than I had planned. Besides my lecture, there had been other speakers and they actually slept in the science centre! Just the sort of thing I love! If I had known, I’d have brought my sleeping bag!

Besides looking at the sky, we enjoyed the beautiful environment (it’s in the Brunsummerheide forest). One of the guys, Roel, had found a dead little snake and I asked if I could take a picture of his dead little snake. And Roel’s friend Steven took a picture of me taking a picture of the snake. When it was dark enough, we used the big ‘scope in the dome and I took a picture of Saturn. Meanwhile I kept thinking whether it would be worth cycling home to get my sleeping bag. So when JW offered to drive to pick it up, I caved.

We stayed up long enough to see it turn light again, my new friends and I. We went for a little walk, we tried stargazing from the swing and the next morning we had lunch in the Pannenkoeken-restaurant. This was right after a couple of us had taken a dive in the Rode Beek. (Literally a couple, as the rest thought the water was too cold ha!) This was the first time I went swimming with part of ‘my audience’, by the way…

Before we all headed home – me on my bike, but a longer journey for some of them – I took the picture of the drawing Roel made of the Moon. The glass covering it is reflecting my leg, so it seems as if I’m standing on the Moon. Pretty, isn’t it? I also took a picture of the poster of ‘Hannie’s Voorwerp’ in the hallway. Yes, my teacher hands are itching to get my red marker out, but hey ho. I think it’s nice that they have a poster.

And I’m very happy they had invited me. What an unexpected, amazing weekend this was. Thank you, you lovely guys ‘n gals. I hope to see some of you soon! (Steven, looking forward to go back there with you tonight, in fact)!