At 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 13, Plympton Public Library hosted an astronomy presentation put on by Barry and Carolyn Decristofano.
An engineer and lecturer at Northeastern University in Boston, Barry brings a collegiate approach to the study of astronomy.
Describing himself as a “hobbyist astronomer,” Barry says his passion for the science came about at a young age, citing his first memories of the stars from when he was just a small boy.
Carolyn works as a science educator, and has published several books related to astronomy and other STEM topics.
Together, the two delivered a learning experience to their audience by working in synergy. “It was awesome. He was awesome. Barry makes it fun,” said one of the attendees.
The presentation kicked off with a brainstorming activity, in which Carolyn asked the audience to shout out some different aspects of the universe that they had interacted with that day. The first few included, “rain,” and “clouds,” and these were followed up by some shout outs from the kids, the more notable were “cheeseburgers,” and “my hot wheels set.”
Following this activity, Barry asked the group to consider the things that come up when one is thinking about the night sky, and asked participants to draw these things. Among the most popular were drawings of the moon, and Jupiter.
Barry went on to introduce the concept of constellations, and provided the group with a worksheet depicting the night sky to design their own constellations out of patterns they see themselves. Participants were then called up to the front and asked to draw their self chosen patterns on the projector for the group to see. This introduced an important take home point from the presentation: everyone is free to interpret and enjoy the sky in their own way. The collection created by the entire group was then labeled “The Plympton Library Star Map.” After establishing an understanding of constellations, he then went on to provide historical insight into the concept, offering examples of many Greek constellations, such as Hercules, Scorpius, and others.
The discussion led up to the final activity of the evening, which was creating “big dipper finders,” a small paper device that can help one find the big dipper in the night sky in real time (which can be helpful for determining what direction is north). Along with the materials to build them, a guide for using these devices was handed out. The group struggled with the concept at first, but many managed to get a grasp on the idea.
This event marks the third astronomy-related visit to the Plympton Public Library for Barry. Once before, he gave another presentation similar to this, and has also set up a telescope on the lawn for stargazing, as well as to see views of the moon, jupiter, and more celestial objects. Following the end of this presentation, Barry & Carolyn gathered the opinions of the attendees about the best days and times, so a future presentation can likely be expected.