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Sidewalk Astronomy

From Donna Smith:

Congratulations to all of you for making ISAN 2008 a success! We’ve received updates and photos from many of you and it seems like you had great events. We don’t have very accurate accounts of numbers from many of you, but just the “firm” numbers are over 10,000 people observing. We may post the photos but it will depend on time - we are already moving forward to IYA and there is a lot of work to be done in a very short time!

The Sidewalk Astronomers are extensively involved in many of the IYA projects, which is to be expected since so many of the projects rely on amateurs and “sidewalk astronomy.” In this newsletter we’re outlining some of these programs and our objectives for 2009. Fortunately, many of these programs overlap and we will be able to utilize central resources for more than one program.

We need you! You have the experience, knowledge and passion for astronomy that will be needed if IYA is to succeed. This is also the perfect opportunity for you to increase membership in your local club and the absolute best time for individuals to get involved! Please take a look at the following areas we are working on and let us know if there are other IYA programs you are already involved in.

We also want to thank all of you again. The Sidewalk Astronomers have been contacted to work on these IYA projects because of our visibility in the worldwide amateur astronomy community and that wouldn’t have happened if ISAN hadn’t been so supported by all of you last year and again this year. John Dobson, Jeff Roloff and Bruce Sams started this club to show the people on the streets in San Francisco the night sky and 40 years later we are showing that sky to the people of the world because of you!

100 Hours of Astronomy

This project is basically 100 hours of astronomy events starting April 2 and continuing until April 5, 2009. There are two main parts of the project - research observatories and “sidewalk astronomy” Astronomers Without Borders is taking the lead on the “sidewalk astronomy” part of the project which covers 1) sidewalk astronomy, 2) science centers, and 3) schools. We have joined the project and are basically handling 1) sidewalk astronomy but will be using our network as support for the other areas. The project calls for a 24 hour worldwide public star party to be the central point of these 100 hours, so we are planning the 3rd ISAN to be held on April 4, expanding it to include more traditional public astronomy events. While we still want guys out there ambushing the public with telescopes, we also want clubs to hold big events. We hope to have live video and audio feeds during the event and also live podcasts.

We’ll need amateurs to plan several events before and after ISAN and are looking for a wide variety of event types and locations. We want to have events everywhere possible - every city in every country. Events will be held at observatories, museums, science centers, planetariums, city parks, libraries, on cruise ships and airplanes, on military bases - anywhere there are people who need a chance to see the sky and want to be a part of this historic event.

We want events that reflect the diversity of our cultures and locations. We need everyone on the planet to attend, so we need big events and small events and events in out of the way places - small islands, far northern Siberia, Antarctica, - we want to reach everyone. And we don’t want to leave anyone out - we need to go to people that can’t come to us, people in retirement homes, hospitals, deaf schools, etc.

Get creative, forge relationships with others in your area and not just astronomers. Partner with clubs interested in our planet and those that live on it - nature groups, animal concern organizations, human rights and environmental groups. Contact the local rocket club, theater group, local bands, remote controlled airplane clubs, ham radio clubs - use your imagination.

Some ideas for events:

  • Observing at planetariums, etc. in support of their programs
  • Traditional sidewalk events at various locations
  • 100 hour observing marathons- with special focus on ISAN Global Star Party
  • Have community theater perform a play about Galileo/famous astronomers with observing outside
  • Have local music group/symphony put on Holst’s The Planets/observing outside
  • Have roving astronomers move around the city

Send us your ideas! We can’t wait to see what you imagine for this event!


International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA)