Astronomy Festival on the National Mall

Posted by Sarah Scoles
on Monday, May 13, 2013

In years past, the Astronomy Festival on the National Mall has included sidewalk exhibits. // all photos by Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño
Have you ever looked through a telescope while the Washington Monument towered over you? If not (or if you have and would like to do so again), you’ll have your chance in just over a month.

On June 14 (or June 15 if the sky is not cooperating), the astronomy outreach arm of Hofstra University will host the Astronomy Festival on the National Mall. The event, whose title describes it quite accurately, will run from 5–11 p.m. 

That evening, museums, universities, observatories, and other organizations will gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to share their excitement about and knowledge of astronomy. Participants will get great telescopic views of Saturn’s rings, our Moon, Jupiter’s moons, Mars’ redness, double stars, and star clusters from expert hobbyist astronomers from the area. But before the Sun sets, attendees can view it through a solar telescope, visit exhibits and view demonstrations by astronomers with the American Astronomical Society, Astronomy Foundation, the International Dark-Sky Association, the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the National Science Foundation Division of Astronomical Sciences — all organizations filled with scientists whose brains are ripe for picking.

If visitors need to relax and take a passive role in their astronomical learning, they can view the planetarium programs Journey to the Stars (narrated by Whoopie Goldberg) and Cosmic Collisions (narrated by Robert Redford). 

In 2011, when this picture was taken, 2,000 people attended the Astronomy Festival on the National Mall.

Additionally, an important figure from scientific history will haunt the D.C. sidewalks. Astronomer Caroline Herschel (portrayed by K. Lynn King), the first modern female astronomer and the sister of William Hershel who discovered Uranus, returns from the past to discuss her contributions.

As for the living, Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA, is the headlining speaker and will describe the agency’s astronomy program and answer questions.

So if any of that sounds fun to you (and how could it not, really?), and you’re within 2,500 miles of the nation’s capital, consider attending the Astronomy Festival on the National Mall. If you’re part of an organization that would like to participate — amateur astronomy clubs are welcomed —

This 14-inch Dobsonian is the biggest telescope these children have ever seen.
email Donald Lubowich of Hofstra University at Tables, chairs, and generators will be available. To learn more about this event and to see a calendar of other Hofstra astronomy outreach events, visit

George Washington would be proud.

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