Jan 24, 2011
Welcome to an exciting new year of astronomy! Thank you for showing interest in the activities of the Astronomy Outreach Foundation. This new group got its organizational start in 2010 and looks forward to setting activities into high gear in the coming year. For the first time ever, astronomy has an industry group to promote the hobby and spread enthusiasm for the night sky to newcomers. The kernel of this idea began in California with telescope manufacturers Joe Lupica from Celestron, Vic Maris of Stellarvue, and Brian Deis from Vixen discussing how a larger effort to spread interest in astronomy could come about. Others then joined in and a movement began.
The organizational year of 2010 was productive, with the group establishing its goals, its bylaws, and its officers. The organization’s vision is to introduce many new people to astronomy, show them how easy it is to see celestial objects, encourage them to participate as astronomy hobbyists, help them choose and use equipment, coordinate and promote outreach activities, and establish partnerships to promote astronomy.
In order to accomplish these lofty goals, we will promote sidewalk astronomy nights in major cities, create videos that ease people into astronomy, coordinate outreach efforts with astronomy groups and star parties, increase the presence of astronomy in schools, spread interest in astronomy through social media, and provide publicity for events through the enthusiast media.
How can you help? We are now in the process of recruiting enthusiastic amateur astronomers who can help spread the joy of amateur astronomy. Alex Khachaturyan, a founder of GammaFX, a creative studio in Los Angeles, is also an astronomy enthusiast. He has joined the group and contributed a great deal in terms of getting the Foundation’s website up to speed. Frank Dibbell, a retired software engineer in Sacramento and executive director of Space Science for Schools (see ss4s.org), is also joining us and will be helping to do a great deal for the organization in the future.
But we are looking for more volunteers to help with this organization’s worthy causes! Please contact us at www.astronomyoutreachfoundation.org/contact-us/.
The past few months were productive, and the group is slowly and surely finding its momentum. The Foundation had a booth and significant presence at the Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show in Pasadena, California, September 18–19, 2010. Organizations that helped at PATS were Astronomy magazine, Meade Instruments, Oceanside Photo & Telescope, Orion Telescopes and Binoculars, PlaneWave Instruments, Sky & Telescope magazine, Vixen Optics, and Woodland Hills Camera and Telescopes. The event coincided with a celebration dubbed International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN), set up by several NASA projects including the outreach staff from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. To participate in this event, the Foundation staff conducted a webcast of their star party to observe the Moon during the event. The webcast featured interviews with Foundation board members and others, including a guest appearance from “Galileo Galilei.”
In addition, the Foundation launched a channel on YouTube in which future videos can be archived. See www.youtube.com/user/AstroOutreach for the current films and for future additions. The introductory video features Astronomy magazine Senior Editor Michael Bakich and Carly Maris, Vic’s daughter, speaking about getting into astronomy and how the Foundation can help.
October saw a significant event at which several members of the Foundation (Hands-on Optics, Stellarvue, and Oceanside Photo & Telescope) brought astronomy to the masses. At the USA Science and Engineering Festival on the National Mall in Washington, we brought solar telescopes provided by Lunt Solar Systems and Meade Instruments and showed many visitors the Sun, spread the word about the group to more than 1,000 people, and participated in a Celestron-run star party that delighted hundreds of attendees.
In November, amateur astronomers Gene and Kathy Dolphin posted a nice story on the website about how to hold a Halloween star party. You’ll find it under the “blogs” section should you care to look at their experience and advice on how you might approach that activity this coming year. And soon thereafter, an article in Sky & Telescope magazine (now found on the AOF web site) highlighted the successful library telescope program amateurs have organized by the New Hampshire Astronomical Society to loan telescopes out to interested parties who want to satisfy their curiosity about the heavens.
Plans for 2011
The Foundation plans a strong presence at several events coming this year. These will include the Northeast Astronomy Forum, taking place at Rockland Community College in Suffern, New York, April 16–17, 2011 (see www.rocklandastronomy.com/NEAF/index.html). At this, America’s premier astronomy expo, more than 130 on-site vendors will display telescopes and other wares, and many speakers and workshops will enliven the 3,000 attendees. Solar observing, STARLAB planetarium shows, classes for beginning astronomers, space and astronomy events for kids, and other activities will round out this major event. Please stop by and say hello at the Astronomy Outreach Foundation booth at NEAF if you have the chance to attend.
AOF is also planning to attend the number of other public events throught the year. Please check the events section of our website for the latest listings.
In association with Astronomy magazine, the Foundation is proud to be sponsoring the Discover the Universe program. This ambitious program is searching for volunteers. Astronomy club members who care about sharing our hobby are asked to organize and put on star parties in their areas around the country and around the world, and doing so in cities, right on the sidewalks where lots of people flow, is the ideal place. If the targets are few — the Moon, a planet or two, a double star, perhaps — so be it. Showing people their first “live” glimpse of the heavens and explaining that the light they are seeing has traveled a huge distance through space before striking their eye will turn them on.
If your astronomy club is interested in volunteering in the effort to spread our hobby, I ask you to contact me at email@example.com. I will be happy to discuss the program more with you. To support your star parties, Astronomy magazine will help publicize the events with its own networks and through local media contacts in your area. The magazine will also send you a Star Party Action Kit, consisting of brochures, magazines, and premium booklets that explain the exciting world of astronomy to newcomers.
This activity will no doubt help the vitality of your astronomy club. I’m sure you have noted the “graying” of the hobby as the majority of young people these days are captivated by entertainment rather than science. The February 2011 issue of Astronomy contains a special article, “Why Gen X and Y should care about astronomy” by Karen Jennings. Reprints of this story will be included in the star party kit. The Foundation is asking you to help spread the excitement of astronomy for the good of future generations, too, who we hope will embrace and become experts on serious subjects like astronomy, for the good of the vast future.
How to get involved
Aside from becoming one of the Foundation’s army of volunteers who will spread the excitement of the night sky, you van get involved in other ways, too. As a supporter, for $25 per year, you can receive an official AOF shirt or hat. At $250 per year, advocates receive those benefits plus their logo on the AOF’s web site, use of the AOF’s logo on promotional materials, and access to Foundation events. Sponsors, at $1,000 per year, receive those benefits plus eligibility to serve on the Board of Directors, access to planning meetings, and a vote in the Foundation’s direction. At $2,500 per year, sponsors get all those things plus prominent logo placement on the website. For more information, see www.astronomyoutreachfoundation.org/get-involved/.
Well, that’s it for now. Soon we will update you again on the Foundation’s activities. This will be a big year for astronomy events and promotion of the group’s goals. Stay tuned.
- Dave Eicher, Editor, Astronomy, and member of the Astronomy Outreach Foundation Board of Directors