A new phase for the Astronomy Outreach Foundation

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, August 12, 2011

Many of you are familiar with the telescope industry’s first trade association, the Astronomy Outreach Foundation, which was created in late 2009 to spread interest in astronomy, especially to younger folks. The group has recently undergone a reorganization. Now named simply the Astronomy Foundation (AF), the organization consists of telescope manufacturers, clubs, magazines, and devoted amateur astronomers who wish to spread the joy of our hobby. See the group’s website at astronomyfoundation.org (but note that the name change in logos and such, and on the group’s Facebook page, has yet to take place).

The AF has elected new officers to serve until the meeting it will hold at the Northeast Astronomy Forum in New York in the spring of 2013. I am now the group’s president, Alex Khachaturyan is vice president, and Rick Hedrick is secretary. The board of directors consists of me, Hedrick, Khachaturyan, Vic Maris, Mike Reynolds, and Craig Weatherwax.

Below is the second AF newsletter of 2011 that describes a wide-ranging set of new activities and committees that will place the group’s outreach activities into overdrive. New initiatives involving star parties, astronomy clubs, young observers, observing reports, education, and light pollution are all underway. And overseeing those committees is a diverse group of astronomy enthusiasts including Reynolds, Karen Jennings, Benjamin Palmer, Scott Kardel, Tom Trusock, and Glenn Chaple. I encourage you to read it and let me know if you have any comments. You can reach me at editor@astronomy.com.


Welcome to a new phase of astronomy outreach. I’m pleased to let you know that a new slate of officers has been elected for our group, and that several changes have taken place. The first is that our first president, Vic Maris, completed the change of our organization’s name to simply Astronomy Foundation. The group does more than astronomy outreach, and we will show that record of achievement over the coming years. Please note that our website is now astronomyfoundation.org, and that Astronomy Foundation is the group’s new and official name on Facebook and in other contexts, of course.

Second, allow me to introduce to you our new slate of officers, who will hold their positions until the annual meeting of the Astronomy Foundation at the Northeast Astronomy Forum in New York in the spring of 2013. For approximately 20 months, the new officers are:

Dave Eicher, president
Alex Khachaturyan, vice president
Rick Hedrick, secretary

The members of the AF’s Board of Directors are Eicher, Hedrick, Khachaturyan, Maris, Mike Reynolds, and Craig Weatherwax.

The year 2010 was an organizational one for this group, and the first 6 months of this year were very quiet because the folks involved were so busy. As president, I want to take this group and put it into overdrive, getting a bunch of exciting things accomplished. I will now describe some of them. They involve committees, communication, and coordination with astronomy clubs and enthusiasts, so everyone who cares about the AF is encouraged to get involved and help, for the sake of our hobby’s future.

If you are interested in volunteering in any way, shape, or form, please contact me at editor@astronomy.com.

New activities for 2011/2012
The major goals of the AF are to introduce new people to the universe around them and show them how easy it is to get into astronomy as an activity. To do this, 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 throughout the enthusiast media.

The AF held its annual meeting this year at the Northeast Astronomy Forum on April 17, 2011, in Suffern, New York. The board met and decided to focus on the above goals over the coming months, as well as establish a common set of standards for manufactured goods in the astronomy hobby among telescope manufacturers. (For example, a 2-inch diameter eyepiece from one manufacturer may vary a good deal in terms of its measurements from that of another maker.) This last program is something under the watchful direction of Rick Hedrick.

Discover the Universe program
In association with Astronomy magazine, the AF will help sponsor public star party events through the magazine’s Discover the Universe program. This program has supported eight star parties this spring, held in urban locations, partnering with local astronomy clubs to share the sky with those who have not yet seen it. Over the first 3 months, Discover the Universe has helped bring views of the cosmos to about 3,650 people who had previously never looked through a telescope. These events occurred in such diverse places as Barcelona, Spain; Clute, Texas; Ottawa, Canada; Pueblo, Colorado; Thessaloniki, Greece; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Virginia Beach, Virginia. For more information on these events, see /blogs/astronomy/archive/tags/Discover+the+Universe/default.aspx.

More than a dozen similar events are now planned, and more will follow. These events give people their first looks through telescopes, provide a fun day and interface for astronomy clubs to reach out to the public, and distribute the AF literature — as well as magazines and premium booklets introducing the hobby — to those who are interested in getting involved with our group. At Astronomy magazine, Associate Editor Bill Andrews is the contact person for this program. Anyone interested in having a club participate in this program should contact Bill at bandrews@astronomy.com.

Discover the Universe Fall Astronomy Day 2011
The Discover the Universe program expects to participate in a major event this fall, a star party hosted by AF Board Member Mike Reynolds, at Florida State College at Jacksonville, Kent Campus. The event, expected to draw 1,000 people, will feature participation by the AF, Astronomy magazine, and various speakers and telescope manufacturers such as Scott Roberts of Explore Scientific.

Scheduled for October 7–8, 2011, the event will feature “living history” presentations by Robert Dawson, portraying Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and other historical figures, as well as talks by Roberts, Michael Bakich, Barbara Harris, Jim Stittsworth, Jay Huebner, Greg Dietrich, and Tippy D’Auria.

Of course, each night will feature great observing, with a just-past First Quarter Moon, and then dark-sky observing of stars, clusters, nebulae, and galaxies after moonset. The crowd is expected to consist of astronomy enthusiasts, brand-new observers getting their first look through a telescope, and enthusiastic college students. For more information on this big event, contact Mike Reynolds at mreynold@fscj.edu.

Committees for action
Among the new initiatives the AF will tackle over the coming months are several built around committees for action. These are:

 Star Party Committee, Mike Reynolds, Chair. This committee will actively seek out involvement in existing star parties, contemplate organizing our own star parties, and push for representation at upcoming star parties and amateur astronomy meetings. The idea is to get star party participants to help represent the AF at events, to distribute our literature, and to bring as many new people into the hobby as possible.

Astronomy Club Committee, Karen Jennings, Chair
. This committee will undertake an ambitious program of communicating with astronomy clubs in the United States and around the world to solicit their involvement in the AF and their support of its goals.

Youth Committee, Benjamin Palmer, Chair. This committee will explore the possibilities — by communication and by producing articles and other materials — of involving as many teenagers and other young, would-be astronomers in observing events, meetings, star parties, and other activities.

Light Pollution Committee, Scott Kardel, Chair. This committee will work actively with the International Dark-Sky Association and astronomy clubs to help foster a spirit of reducing worldwide light pollution, bringing publicity to the cause, and helping to get new observers their first views of the cosmos under dark skies.

Education Committee, Tom Trusock, Chair. This committee will work with educators, schools, youth groups, and astronomy clubs to bring about more awareness of astronomy in schools, in curricula, and in school-related events, using resources of the AF to help attract more young people to become astronomy enthusiasts.

Observing Committee, Glenn Chaple, Chair. This committee will solicit and collect observing reports, stories, and experiences from new observers of the sky, members of the AF, and others, and popularize them on the AF website, in populist media, on Facebook, and in other outlets, to make light of the tangible results of the experiences of new observers under the sky.

I will have more to report on these committees and their activities over the coming days.

Closing thoughts — for now
Back in January, I told you about a story in Astronomy written by Karen Jennings, “Why Gen X and Y Should Care about Astronomy,” which was published in the February 2011 issue. I’d like to tell you about two more important stories that relate to young people getting interested in astronomy, and learning about the cosmos around them. They were published in the August 2011 issue of Astronomy, and are “Why Teens Should Care about Astronomy” by 14-year-old Ayla Besemer, and “What Happened to Science Education?” by Bill Andrews. You can read them at /blogs/daves_2D00_universe/archive/2011/08/02/a-tale-of-two-stories.aspx.

How to get involved
Aside from becoming one of the AF’s army of volunteers who will spread excitement of the night sky, you can get involved in other ways, too. As a supporter, for $25 per year, you can receive an official AF shirt or hat. At $250 per year, advocates receive that benefit plus their logo on the AF’s website, use of the AF’s logo on promotional materials, and access to AF events. Sponsors, at $1,000 per year, receive those benefits plus eligibility to serve on the AF’s Board of Directors, access to planning meetings, and a vote in the AF’s direction. At $2,500 per year, sponsors get all those benefits plus prominent logo placement on the website. For more information, see http://www.astronomyfoundation.org/get-involved/.

Well, that’s it for now. This will be a crucial period for astronomy events and promotion of the Astronomy Foundation. Stay tuned.

      –  Dave Eicher, president

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