Monday, April 13, 2009

Astronomy Day is Not Just For Kids

Astronomy Day events across the country find astronomers sharing their knowledge and passion about the night sky with others. Get ready for May 10th when you will find big celebrations, sidewalk astronomy, and a lot of star parties. It is a great time to bring your family out for a night together under the stars or a day of learning about the Sun.

What if the person telling you about astronomy was only 13? Well, sometimes that is the case. Hear how the kids in these Night Sky Network clubs got their communities excited about the cosmos at last year's Astronomy Day and about one teacher's mission to get her students involved. Also find out how to participate this year.

In Oklahoma, Eileen Grzybowski runs a high school club where the students do the presentations to the public. The Norman North Astronomy Club had a full Astronomy Day last year. Here she tells us about a small part of the activities they organized that day. "The students ran Star Lab shows in our portable Star Lab planetarium system at the top of the hour: 2, 3, and 4 p.m. (They added a 4:35 show by popular request!) The students who led the Star Lab shows received much applause for their presentations. They remarked that they got better at their storytelling after the first show. I told them, 'Just like teachers! Join the club!'"

Katrina DeWitt tells us about making a scale model of the Universe as part of the Neville Public Museum Astronomical Society's Astronomy Day festivies in Wisconsin: "This was the first time I had used the Universe of Galaxies activity. Even I was amazed at how distant these objects really were. My eight-year-old son did most of the measuring (with a bit help from dad) and had a blast explaining to those that walked by, the scale model of our Universe."

And in Tennessee, Jim Opalek of the Cumberland Astronomical Society tells us about how a dedicated teacher made a big difference for many of her students that day. "One woman made her way through the maze of telescopes and binoculars, asking questions about their operation and them, then introduced herself as a teacher. Later that afternoon and throughout the evening, we had many families come by who said they had received a phone call earlier that afternoon from their child's teacher, telling them they needed to come out and take advantage of the opportunity to observe through the telescopes and pick up some magazines and literature. This teacher needs to be commended for seizing the moment and making calls to her students on a Saturday afternoon. And as we helped each other pack up the scopes, tables, canopies and chairs, we wondered, could our guests possibly have gotten as much out of this as we did?"

Jim, we bet they did. If you read about these activities and are wondering how you can get in on the fun this year, go ahead and contact your local astronomy club. See what they have in store for Astronomy Day this May 10th.
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