Burning Man 2014 was a huge success!!
Burning Man 2014: Caravansary was amazing. Two weeks seemed to disappear before our eyes and it’s hard to believe it’s all over. Crew descended from all over the world on Black Rock City to show participants the cosmos and build this observatory and it was just beautiful to see.
Our build week was difficult. We had transportation issues and weather that zapped one entire day of build before we even got started and we were playing catch up on our personal preparations all week. That leads to a tired and uncomfortable crew, so we tried to take a lot of breaks and relax when we could. The harsh conditions took their toll, but all handled it like professionals, keeping their eyes on the prize and working hard every day.
By the time we were up and running, there was a line. Actually, there was a line before we were open, while we were collimating the telescope’s optics (no pressure) and if that didn’t make it hard enough, we didn’t get a chance to add a finder scope until mid-week making the scope very difficult to point. We still killed it.
I didn’t take enough photos! We were so busy showing people the universe, we didn’t get a chance to photograph the Observatory as much as we hoped, but the awesome citizens and some crew took these great images that are already making some of us homesick. Thanks everyone!
The spot lights and lasers over Black Rock City did cause more trouble than we anticipated, but that was remedied by simply choosing alternate targets that weren’t obscured by a sound camp’s beams from miles away. We were convinced camps in the city were aiming directly at us on purpose for a few minutes, but we were probably just imagining things. We stuck mostly to the bright and easy to locate targets like the Andromeda Galaxy, Saturn, Jupiter, m13, the Ring Nebula, Orion Nebula, etc. People were thrilled and the reception to our experiment was very warm. We were almost a mile beyond the Man, but people showed up in droves. There were lines that were 50+ people long most nights for hours at a time, but they didnt seem to mind. We wanted to alleviate the wait times with other scopes, but many vital parts and screws vibrated out on gate road on the way in making secondary scope use very difficult at best. Lesson learned. People were thrilled anyway.
The meteorite served as a great lesson for the queue and next year, we’ll steer the line through more interesting exhibits so we can make the line experience more rewarding. Many said the line and the distance to the Observatory didn’t bother them, they got a chance to “discover” it and talk with other burners about their experiences. All in all, I was blown away by the attendance and the effect we had on participants.
I was expecting to reach few, but it seems like we touched many. More than a few people told me that we changed their lives. There was a gentleman studying propellant chemistry who told me that we “connected the dots” for him and gave him a greater context for his work that he had never felt before. Parents of children who visited us during the Kidsville event on Wednesday night approached me all week telling me how their kids couldn’t stop talking about seeing the rings of Saturn or touching the meteorite. We gave out 36 meteorite sample as gifts to kids and they were all amazed, blown away and grateful.
All the hard work pays off when you see that spark in someone’s eyes. Everyone is beautiful when they’re amazed. I’m tearing up a little right now just thinking about what you’ve allowed us to do here. What an honor you’ve given us! But then, as you know, I get a little misty every time I’m writing updates for you, don’t I? Thank you. You, who has given us the opportunity to turn a tiny light on in people’s lives and reassure them that the world is INDEED just as amazing as all the magic in their science books. YOU! who made my dreams and the dreams of many others come true by supporting this project. YOU who dared to expand people’s minds to include the universe with in it. YOU! who took a chance on us and believed in us! YOU who made this world a more beautiful place. Thank you. Thank you very VERY much.
From all the crew at Black Rock Observatory, thank you. Hopefully, we can meet you in person and offer face to face gratitude for this amazing privilege. If we were lucky enough to meet you at Burning Man, I hope we can thank you again some day. Should we never cross paths, know that you’ve changed the direction of lives forever and that we’re eternally grateful for that.
See you soon, – Major Tom