National Astronomical Observatory of Japan



Mitaka Open House Day 2016: More than 4500 Visitors Gathered at the Observatory in Autumn

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The annual open house “Mitaka Open House Day” was held for 2 days on Friday, October 21, and Saturday, October 22, 2016. On the 21st, 542 visitors came to the pre-open day and on the 22nd, 3992 visitors came to the open day, for a total of 4534 visitors. We opened the research facilities to the public, introducing the research we usually work on and its result. Also, we prepared many kinds of attractions such as quizzes and VR (virtual reality) experiences, so that our visitors could feel close to astronomy. Staff members were asked many questions by our visitors and realized that people are very interested in astronomy. Researchers who observe the stars in the night sky were fascinated by the stars in the visitors’ eyes as they asked questions in rapid succession, one after another. At the main open house day on the 22nd, all the venues were very crowded and staff members were very busy! Staff members explained the exhibits passionately and politely answered the questions that came flying one after another. The campus was overflowing with energetic visitors all day and many of them enjoyed the open house. We will introduce to you some of the open house events.

This year’s main theme was “Gravitational Waves, a New Frontier of Astronomy”. In September 2015, gravitational waves were detected for the first time. This was big news. In that instant, the curtain raised on a new field of astronomy. The phenomena which emit gravitational waves also emit electromagnetic waves of various wavelengths such as radio waves and visible light. Therefore, in addition to observing gravitational waves directly, efforts to investigate gravitational wave sources using visible light and radio waves are also underway now. The lectures introduced the latest astronomy in which NAOJ is involved, in relation to gravitational wave observations.

You can see the lecture from the 22nd on YouTube.

Every year, many characters liven up different exhibits. This year, some of them gathered at the Main Gate for the opening of the open day on the 22nd. The strange and not so strange mascots greeted the visitors together.

During the event, these mascots guided guests at various places around the campus. The only time the mascots could all meet in one place was at the opening time. Visitors who came in the early morning could see that precious moment.

After that, the mascots went back to each exhibits to welcome visitors. They explained the observational results in front of the telescopes and posed for pictures.

The fun and very popular quiz time with Dr. Flare. He also performed a picture story and explained the posters.

Visitors listened to lectures about the latest astronomy and saw scenes from the inaccessible telescopes located on the plateau. We used the Dome Theater and welcomed visitors to the virtual reality world with VR goggles. Each Project thought-up a variety of things to entertain the visitors.

In the 4D2U Dome Theater, a researcher gave a talk about the scientific background of 3D movies and some related recent research.
These people are experiencing the Mitaka VR content that you can travel reely around the Universe. There is another VR exhibition provided by the Chile Observatory to look around between the ALMA antennas on a plateau, at an altitude of over 5000 meters, halfway around the globe.

We prepared many games that children could enjoy. They took photo stickers and tried the galaxy finding game. Many children were running around the campus energetically.

Even though the children can’t speak English, they can still play with the researchers and staff members from overseas. Here, they are playing board games.
The original card game “Andromeda Fantasy” is popular every year. Many children challenged Subaruman.

Because it was the annual Mitaka Open House Day, you could enter buildings that are not usually open to the public. You could feel the various eras of astronomy by visiting locations from the interior of the historical “Solar Tower Telescope” to the places where the latest observation equipment is made.

While observing the spectrum of sunlight in the basement of the Solar Tower Telescope built 90 years ago, they thought about the observations of that time.
Inside NAOJ, astronomical instruments, to be mounted on the latest telescopes, are made.
There were many hands-on exhibits. Not only children but also adults were absorbed in the exhibits.

After most of the exhibits in the buildings were finished, we presented “Solar Projection Mapping” at the darkened rotary. This was the first year we attempted this. The photos of daily solar observations were projected on a huge, 2-meter diameter, balloon. Many people were mesmerized by the awesome allure of a rare night Sun. Even visitors who were on the way home stopped in their tracks. We got a great reaction from the visitors, so we decided to do a presentation about the Sun. Even though the clouds hid the starry sky, many visitors stayed until late at night, enjoying the exhibition until the last minute they left NAOJ.

The unusual night Sun rose in front of the building. Everyone was curious about the huge Sun that appeared suddenly.

You could get a prize for going around the exhibits and collecting stamps. This year’s prize was magnetic bookmarks with a motif of gravitational wave source observations which NAOJ is involved in. How many stamps did you collect? The prize changes every year, so please come back next year and collect stamps.

A completed stamp card, and this year’s prize, a magnetic bookmark.

We had a lot of other fun projects! We can’t talk about all of the exhibitions here, so please come to the Mitaka Open House Day next year!

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