We’d like to invite all amateur astronomers to take their telescopes out to the sidewalk on the evening of May 19th.
We know that many amateurs have commitments with local observatories, planetariums, libraries, etc on the Saturday evening near first quarter Moon, but if you can spare some of your members, it would be great if they could find places where people AREN’T expecting to look through a scope. Most outreach is focused around people who already know they want to see the night sky, that’s why they are at an observatory or planetarium, but we need to expose people who don’t even know yet that they are interested in astronomy. It is so important that “amateurs take telescopes to the people” ( John Dobson). The truth is most people aren’t at the observatory, most people are out having dinner, going to the movies, shopping, etc.
Sidewalk Astronomy does not have to be a large, highly coordinated event. It’s very simple – grab a scope and go stand on the corner, in front of the movie theater, next to a convenience store, near a subway or busy bus stop, by a book store – anywhere there are large numbers of people walking by. One or two scopes at any given location is more than enough. You all know that you don’t need a huge scope to look at the Moon, so take your smaller scopes out. Many times, individuals and clubs contact us asking about how to do sidewalk astronomy. They usually are trying to get several members out at the same location, they want to promote it with local media, they worry about permits, they want to know what information they should give people – all kinds of questions. It doesn’t have to be that difficult. Find somewhere near where you live, grab a scope and go.
We will post on our website who is going out on the night of May 19th. We don’t need to have an exact location yet, but you do need to send contact information that you don’t mind being posted on the internet. Later, when you have exact locations, we will post them, along with minimum times you expect to be out. If you have the exact location already, that is fine to.
On the evening of May 19th, we encourage you to take a few photos when it doesn’t disrupt observing and to try to keep some kind of count of the number of people that look through your scopes. If you have more than one scope at a location, please only count the people once. We’d like to get an idea of how many people we reach.
Afterwards, for those who send us photos and/or summaries of their activity that night, we will be sending them a founders button of some kind ( I could use someone to design that….) and we will possibly be putting together a commemorative booklet of the event for John.
There are flyers on the website that can be copied and added with your local club information to hand out on the evening of the 19th. If you choose to use your own flyers, we’d like it if you would list our website (www.sidewalkastronomers.us ) in case anyone is interested in learning more about sidewalk astronomy or the sidewalk astronomers.