Astronomy's third annual Public Star Party!

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, February 23, 2015

Scott Kardel, managing director of the International Dark-Sky Association, describes the current battle for dark skies and how amateur astronomers can join the effort, Astronomy’s 2015 Public Star Party, Tucson, Arizona, Feb. 14, 2015.
A whirlwind of activity on my return from Tucson to Milwaukee has prevented me from staying up to date on blogs. But here goes:

Astronomy magazine held its third annual Public Star Party in Tucson on Saturday, February 14, at the East Campus of Pima Community College, southeast of the center of the city. Senior Editor Michael Bakich did a great job as always coordinating the speakers and other activities of the star party, and we had several hundred people show up throughout the day. Members of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) brought a variety of telescopes to set up adjacent to the campus observatory. A great deal of solar observing took place throughout the day.

Dolores Hill of the University of Arizona’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return team describes the mission that will be the first to return a piece of an asteroid to Earth, Astronomy’s 2015 Public Star Party, Tucson Arizona, Feb. 14, 2015.
The afternoon festivities included a variety of speakers. The first was Jim O’Connor of the TAAA. Jim presented “What’s Up There?” a basic exposure to the fundamentals of the night sky, including how constellations came to be, the nature of our solar system, star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, and comets. He also included a brief look at the evolution of stars.

Scott Kardel, managing director of the International Dark-Sky Association, gave a talk titled “Going Dark.” Of the presentation, Scott said, “We live in an age of light pollution, but a surge of new dark-sky places around the world is fueling a growing interest in astro tourism.” In this talk, he explained the ins and outs of dark-sky places and how they can help us all solve the problems of light pollution.

Dolores Hill, co-lead of the OSIRIS-Rex “Target Asteroids!” program, presented “OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission to Bennu: Approaching New Frontiers.” The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification and Security — Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is a NASA New Frontiers spacecraft mission to be launched in 2016. Its prime objective is to return and analyze a pristine sample from the surface of the carbon-rich near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 2023.

Old friends at the 2015 Tucson Public Star Party: Bryan Shumaker, Dave Eicher, Dolores Hill of the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission, and Rik Hill of the Catalina Sky Survey, Tucson, Arizona, Feb. 14, 2015.
Dolores showed how amateur astronomers are important partners in the field of asteroid science, from making much needed follow-up observations of newly discovered near-Earth objects to conducting ongoing observations of little-known asteroids. They are able to provide better geographic coverage and are able to observe more often than professional astronomers. She discussed how observations submitted to “Target Asteroids!” aid the OSIRIS-REx mission science team, future missions to asteroids, and our understanding asteroids potentially hazardous to Earth.

The final presentation came from me. I presented the same talk from the Starmus Festival, “Does the Universe Really Care About Itself? Communicating Astronomy in the 21st Century,” which surveys the media world we now live in. With pseudoscience and inaccuracy dominating TV, blogs, and the Internet, I asked whether we will ever get back to a realistic view of astronomy and science as they really are.

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