Bringing the stars to the capital

Posted by Bill Andrews
on Wednesday, July 14, 2010

President Barack Obama looks through a telescope during the Astronomy Night event on the South Lawn of the White House, October 7, 2009. "Astronomy Night on the National Mall" will take place just blocks from where the White House star party was hosted. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy
Recently, I received information on a great stargazing event from Donald Lubowich at Hofstra University and Phil Larson at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy that I thought I’d pass along to our readers. Lubowich and Larson wrote:

Building on the success of the star party President Obama hosted last October, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Hofstra University’s Astronomy Outreach Program will host a free public stargazing event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on July 15 from 6 to 11 p.m.

“Astronomy Night on the National Mall” expands upon Hofstra’s 2-year-old NASA-funded “Music and Astronomy Under the Stars” program, a hugely successful program that brings telescopes to thousands of concertgoers on Long Island in New York City and in Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Hofstra and OSTP planned the National Mall event to coincide with a performance of the U.S. Marine Corp Band at the Sylvan Theater on the Mall.

Bringing Hofstra’s program to the National Mall is a great opportunity to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Encouraging children to pursue classes and careers in those fields is an ongoing priority of the Obama administration.

Along with OSTP and Hofstra, local volunteers from the National Capital Astronomers and the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club will set up telescopes, large outdoor astronomy banners, posters describing the history of astronomy, and video equipment for a multimedia presentation just northeast of the Washington Monument. (Click here to view a map.) Visitors will first be able to gaze safely at the Sun with the help of specially filtered telescopes. After dusk, telescopes will provide close-up views of the crescent Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, star clusters, and nebulae.

Using Stellarium, a free, open-source astronomy program, we’ve simulated what the sky will look like from Washington, D.C., around 9:30 p.m. on July 15. For more information and the 2010 schedule for “Astronomy and Music Under the Stars” visit


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