Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The best laid plans...

Here's what was supposed to happen:
I was supposed to meet a group of 52 kids plus some adults at the observatory heliport at 9:45, give them a quick general talk about the observatory there, then take them up to the Isaac Newton Telescope, split the group in two, and take 26 kids+a few adults into the telescope at a time, and finish by 12:00

Here's what actually happened:
The kids' bus broke down. Not broken-down dead, but broken-down good-for-a-few-hundred-yards-before-it-stops-again. The driver nursed it as far as the residencia (the observatory's private hotel for astronomers) by 10:05. Obviously it wasn't going to make it up to the Newton. And the bus company didn't have a spare bus, although they did send a couple of repairmen with clean filters.

Obviously, I couldn't take 58 people up to the telescope in my car. It's at least ten minutes each way.

Right: first things first, give the kids chance to use the bathroom in the residencia. They'd been in the bus for 90 minutes, so someone was going to be desperate.

Next: phone my boss, tell him what was happening, and suggest the MAGIC telescope. It's not the best telescope to show to 10-year-olds, and I wasn't about to start explaining Cherenkov radiation, but it is within walking distance of the residencia.

So up we went up to the helipad beside the MAGIC, and I talked for almost an hour. By that time, I could see quite a few of them beginning to fidget. I didn't blame them - that's a long time for kids that age without any breaks or pictures or anything.

And then the bus driver came with good news - another bus was about to drop a group of walkers off at the Roque, and would be free for a couple of hours until it had to pick them up. We'd have transport up to the Newton for a quick visit.

And then Carmelo the raven dropped in for a visit. I think that was the high point of the day for most people. He managed to greed most of a sandwich off the trip's organizer before he flew off.

And then the second bus arrived, and we went up to the Isaac Newton Telescope, where I waltzed them through at high speed, so they'd have time to visit the Roque viewpoint before they had to give the second bus back.

I really hope they got to the airport in time!

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