Better late than never.
Launchpad was incredible. Thirteen sf writers, gathered at Laramie, WY, to learn about astronomy. The days were packed and intense. Most days had class from 10-6 or so, and the class activities varied from astronomy lecture to labs. Lectures included basic topics like what causes the seasons as well as more advanced topics like the composition of distant galaxies. We learned about planets, star formation, the expanding universe, neutron stars, lunar phases, exoplanets, and cosmology. Mike Brotherton is a funny and well-spoken instructor, so the lectures were never boring (although occasionally overwhelming and brain-filling.) Jim Verley did labs where we built a spectroscope and visited a planetarium. Jerry Oltion talked about the telescopes he’d built and helped us think about how to use astronomy accurately in fiction. All three instructors had very different styles, which was great for appealing to different learning styles.
In the evenings, we had various activities. We stood on top of the science building and looked at planets and stars with small telescopes. I saw the Andromeda Galaxy through some IR goggles, which was very sobering–I was seeing something enormous and light-years away while I was standing on my own two feet on the earth. A whole galaxy–and it was barely bigger than a star, from this distance. We also went to two observatories: Red Buttes and WIRO. At WIRO, the class took a picture of the Pelican Nebula, which we put on our class t-shirt. Here it is:
We took a hike in Vedauwoo, which was striking and lovely. I miss the desert. I had no trouble with the altitude and dryness in Laramie, but some of my classmates did.
Other highlights: We had a writing party on Tuesday night. About 12 of us sat in two rooms and worked on our own projects. Some people had margaritas. On Friday, some of us visited the farmers’ market, which was nice. On Saturday night, we had a party at Mike’s place, at which we played some great games of Thing.
I know I’ll be writing some astronomy stories in the next year or two. I absolutely recommend the experience for anyone who wants to write about astronomy.