Credit: The Albuquerque Astronomical Society
’s 2011 Out-of-this-world Award went to The Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS) in New Mexico. (The 2012 award will be announced soon.) I just received a wonderful update from Dee Friesen, President of TAAS, on how the group used the $2,500 prize money to further their astronomical outreach activities. I’d like to share Dee’s email with you below:
“After reviewing all of our outreach programs, we identified the need to be able to provide accessibility-challenged persons the opportunity to view the night sky through a telescope. Currently, we have imaging systems that enable us to show the night sky on a video screen. However, we want to provide people the ‘real experience’ of seeing the night sky through a telescope.
“The system we are developing will enable a person in a wheelchair to remain in one position and, by moving the telescope itself, view over one-half of the night sky. The telescope movement can be accomplished either by hand or with a ‘go-to’ control device.
“TAAS is fortunate to have in our organization a number of retired engineers and scientists from both Sandia National Laboratories and local industry to work on this project. Since all of the individuals are retired and volunteers, we are on a schedule of events, not time. We are currently creating a prototype system but will not have the completed and tested system ready for public use until later in 2013.
“As we started development of this system, we realized that there are a number of TAAS members with accessibility issues, so this system will serve astronomers as well as the public. Our desire is to share the system with other accessibility-challenged persons in other locations when it is complete.
“I will keep you informed of our progress and invite you to visit our system when it is completed.”
Many thanks to Dee, to all the members of TAAS, and let’s applaud their efforts to bring astronomy to many more people in New Mexico.