Astronomers Without Borders: Global Projects for IYA2009 and Beyond
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) was an unprecedented effort at science outreach worldwide. Astronomers Without Borders is keeping the excitement and involvement of amateur astronomers and educators alive with follow-up events, new events and organization of a new worldwide community of astronomy enthusiasts. Global Astronomy Month in April 2010 engaged many of the same organizations that took part in 100 Hours of Astronomy, a Cornerstone Project of IYA2009 that had tens of thousands of amateur astronomers taking to the streets for public outreach. International Observe the Moon Night in September 2010 was an extension of a previous US national effort that AWB expanded to international participation. Astronomers Without Borders' new social networking site has become the hub for many projects that bring amateur astronomers and educators together to collaborate and share their passion.
Mike Simmons has been an amateur astronomer for more than 35 years and loves sharing the sky with others. Mike joined the Los Angeles Astronomical Society in the early 1970s and served in many capacities including two terms as President and ten years on the Board of Directors. In 1976 he joined the staff of Griffith Observatory where he operated the Zeiss 12-inch refracting telescope for the public and described the many facets of astronomy to tens of thousands of visitors.
In the early 1980s Mike was instrumental in founding the Mount Wilson Observatory Association (MWOA), a support organization dedicated to improving the experience of visitors to the renowned observatory. He served as the founding President of MWOA and has been on the Board of Trustees ever since. He is currently the MWOA Vice President.
Mike's outreach efforts in astronomy broadened in 1999 when he traveled to Iran for a total solar eclipse. In Iran he found an enthusiastic astronomy community lacking the resources easily found in the West. He has since traveled to Iran several times, and in 2004 he led a group of Westerners to Iran to observe the rare Transit of Venus alongside hundreds of Iranian amateur astronomers. In 2006 Mike traveled to the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, bringing observing equipment donated by American astronomers to their enthusiastic but isolated Kurdish counterparts. He has also assisted amateur astronomers and educators in many countries via the Internet. Seeing astronomy as a universal interest that transcends cultural differences, Mike founded Astronomers Without Borders in 2006. He now serves as President of this effort to unite astronomy and space enthusiasts around the world through those common interests.
Mike is also a writer and photographer who has contributed to publications including Scientific American, Astronomy and Sky and Telescope where he is a Contributing Editor. He regularly gives presentations, both in the US and abroad, on his experiences and interests, and on his outlook on international relations through astronomy.
In 2005 Mike was presented with the Clifford W. Holmes Award, an honor given annually by RTMC for a "Major Contribution to Popularizing Astronomy." In 2009 Mike received the prestitious G. Bruce Blair Award awarded annually by the Western Amateur Astronomers for "outstanding contributions to amateur astronomy." Minor Planet Simmons was named in his honor in 2003, in part for his "varied outreach activities in astronomy."
Astronomers Without Borders
"What's Up?" in this month will be presented by Jim Benet