What does the general public expect from a night-sky observation?
Museu de Astronomia e Ciências Afins, Coordenação de Educação em Ciências, Rua General Bruce 586, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2 Observatório Nacional, Rua General José Cristino 77, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
3 Museu da Vida, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), Av. Brasil, 4365 - Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1 Corresponding author: email@example.com
Published online: 1 February 2019
The Night-Sky Observation Program (POC, acronym in Portuguese for Programa de Observação do Céu) is the most traditional education activity run by the Museum of Astronomy and Related Sciences (MAST). It takes place twice a week and has an annual participation of 2,400 people. It starts with a brief talk and is followed by the observation with MAST's telescopes (one of them being over a century old and other modern amateur models). The present work is the first research conducted aimed at POC's evaluation according to the participants’ perspectives in its 33 years of existence. The data were collected using two instruments: a questionnaire, distributed to the participants prior to the activity, and an interview, conducted after the observations. We analysed the data using the Discourse of Collective Subject methodology, which allowed us to understand thoughts and values of the participants on a given topic. We find that the participants have the habit of gazing at the sky, even if for contemplation purposes only, and that the talk makes the public feel more prepared to observe the sky. It was frequently mentioned, though, that the language of the talk should be more oriented to children. We also find that the public expects to observe planets, stars, and constellations, and very few of them are disappointed with the whole experience. The participants also perceive the historical value of the old refractor and declare that the activity brought them feelings of wonderment. We concluded that our instruments and methodology are suitable to evaluate similar sky-observation activities. As a next step, we will conduct a survey to identify worldwide institutions that also use historically valuable telescopes in their public observations with the goal of exchanging experiences and discussing the use of such instruments with education purposes.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2019
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