I’ve just heard from guest blogger Donald Lubowich of Hofstra University about his upcoming Astronomy Night on the National Mall, which takes place April 28 (with a rain date of April 29) in Washington, D.C., and which Astronomy magazine and the Astronomy Foundation will be sponsoring this year. Lubowich delights in this kind of large-scale astronomy outreach, so in addition to helping raise awareness about the event, I thought it’d be instructive to learn a little more about his efforts. If you’ve wondered what more you could do to help promote our favorite hobby, look no further!
In 2010, I created Astronomy Night on the National Mall with the support of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and with the participation of amateur astronomers and various professional groups. I have also enjoyed bringing astronomy and the wonders of the universe to scouts, churches, synagogues, conferences of ministers and rabbis, camps for special-needs children, Ronald McDonald Houses for extremely sick children, the World Science Festival in New York City, and the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C.
Since 2009, my NASA-funded Music and Astronomy Under the Stars (MAUS) program has brought the stars to 50,000 music lovers at events such as the Newport Folk, Tanglewood, and Ravinia festivals, as well as concerts in local parks with the assistance of local astronomy clubs like the Amateur Observers’ Society of New York (recipient of the Astronomy magazine’s 2009 outreach award).
These events can have a dramatic influence on peoples’ lives. One time, seeing the rings of Saturn so excited one of the children that he ran home across the street to tell his grandmother. A few minutes later, she came out of the house in her bathrobe and slippers to look through a telescope for the first time in her life! Most of the audiences I work with have never visited a science museum, planetarium, or star party, and it’s often the first time many of the children ever look through a telescope. Everyone leaves with information about how to continue that interest with local science museums, citizen science projects, astronomy educational sites, and astronomy clubs.