BBC Stargazing LIVE at Leicester University 2014

To see all photos of our display please see here

Members of the British and Irish Meteorite Society (BIMS) attended a large BBC Stargazing Live event at Tatton Park last year and we were keen to get involved again for Stargazing Live 2014. The Tatton Park event was organised by the BBC along with two other events elsewhere in the UK and I had been in contact with the organising team to ensure we got a space again this year. However a change of plan fairly late on meant that there were not going to be any BBC led events in the North West. So very much last minute we were left to try and find an alternative venue to setup our display of space rocks. Following some hectic email exchanges we were very kindly invited to attend a Stargazing Live event organised by Leicester University. They had been one of the other UK venues for a BBC led event last year but this time they were going it alone and organising their own event.

Myself,  Graham and Luther busy setting up before the public is let in.(Copyright Luther Jackson)

Myself, Graham and Luther busy setting up before the public is let in.(Copyright Luther Jackson)

Myself, Graham Ensor and Luther Jackson had arranged to attend the event which was held on a Wednesday evening from 4pm to 10pm. Our contacts at the University were Dr. Cat Fernandes and Dr. John Bridges. We were made to feel most welcome and were impressed with how well the event was organised.  Although Graham was local, Luther and myself lived further away and so the late start gave us time to travel down and get setup in time before the official opening.

Graham and I arrived first and we were shown to our display space which was already setup with tables and power. We were even given some vouchers for food and drink from the various cafes and restaurants on the University campus.  After setting up our BIMS display boards we took half an hour to grab a coffee and a sandwich. I was amazed at all the facilities here including various restaurants. Cafes, shops and even a deli, very different from my days at university!  Luther soon joined us and we all got stuck in setting up our display. We all bring along specimens from our own personal collections and between us always have a nice selection on show.  I always bring my collection of UK and Irish specimens which being close to home is often a talking point with visitors.  Graham has some stunning Lunar and Martian specimens which go down very well indeed and Luther brought some lovely Beni M’Hira specimens (amongst others) together with some large in situ photos that always grab people’s attention.

There were a good mixture of visitors with children and adults alike fascinated by our display of space rocks. (Copyright Luther Jackson)

There were a good mixture of visitors with children and adults alike fascinated by our display of space rocks. (Copyright Luther Jackson)

As usual we were still putting the finishing touches to our display as the doors opened! After the first members of the public arrived there was a constant stream of enthusiastic visitors to our display throughout the evening. We found out afterwards that at one point our stand was surrounded six deep with people unable to get close enough to see! Once we start engaging with visitors however the time flies by and when we have finished chatting with someone there is always a new group moving in to take their place, tiring but great fun!

As usual we ran a competition to win a meteorite by guessing the weight of a nice sized Campo del Cielo specimen. This is always popular and gets a lot of entries. The most common method of guessing the weight was to try and work out how many bags of sugar it felt like although one lady did the same with her new born baby!

Will you be lucky? Someone has to win :-)

Will you be lucky? Someone has to win 🙂

There was a good mix of visitors with people of all ages and knowledge levels passing through. We always get lots of the usual questions such as “How do you know that these are actually meteorites?”, “Are they hot when they land?” and “Are they radioactive?” etc. etc. But we also engaged with people who had more in depth questions and it’s always nice to converse on different levels at events like this.

"So, how do you know these are meteorites and not just rocks found in the garden?" ;-)

“So, how do you know these are meteorites and not just rocks found in the garden?” 😉

Overall we had an excellent evening and had great fun. We see these events as a way of using our collections to engage with people and to help further knowledge and enthusiasm amongst the general public about meteorites, especially children who seem to easily pick up on our passion and leave with a sense of awe about these amazing rocks from space. Selfishly though we always get a huge kick out of doing this and regardless of the effect it has on people we will always carry on attending events such as this 🙂

Graham doing a sterling job having an extended chat with this couple who spent a long time at our stand.

Graham doing a sterling job having an extended chat with this couple who spent a long time at our stand.

I would like to thank Dr, John Bridges for the initial contact that enabled our attendance and also to Dr. Cat Fernandes who made us very welcome on the day and organised our display space superbly.

Harry Jethwa - the lucky competition winner :-) (Copyright Harry Jethwa)

Harry Jethwa – the lucky competition winner 🙂 (Copyright Harry Jethwa)

And lastly upon our return home we did the draw for the winner of the competition and drum roll please the lucky winner of three NWA 869 meteorites is………………   Harry Jethwa!  Well done Harry, your prize will soon be in the post 🙂

To see all photos of our display please see here