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Overview of NEW Sidewalk Astronomers Event Programs




As the innovators of astronomy outreach in public venues and state parks – Sidewalk Astronomers (we are using SWA as an acronym now) is focusing on expanding John’s legacy in unique ways this year.  For 48 years, John Dobson was passionate about the cosmos and sharing it with the general public.  So for 2016, SWA is excited to present some new events that may shift the paradigm on how to do outreach.  Hopefully you will feel these will be fun and exciting and easy to integrate more STEM concepts and hands-on activities to your communities.  The main goal is to get more people around the world rallying around a telescope.


So let us give you a sneak peak of up-coming events that are spread out throughout the year, so you can book them now and get going on the planning.  We have made the events ongoing so that it is easier for you to take part in more of them. Over the years SWA has been a staunch supporter of other organizations’ events, but the time has come and we have our own! 


We have a “Cosmic Passport” that will give you and your children (and great for handouts) a keepsake for all the great events they will be attending this year.  So in addition to the lunar and solar eclipses this year, SWA’s first event that is NEW is BYOT/ATM – Build Your Own Telescope/Amateur Telescope Making Day.  Scheduled around the anniversary of John’s passing (January 15th) – it is imperative we celebrate his life and his dedication to astronomy in lieu of mourning the passing of our patriarch.


Building your own telescope is the cornerstone of SWA and John’s vision so let’s roll up our sleeves and build one together.  Amateur astronomers are encouraged to host workshops and sessions on how to grind mirrors and construct the base and the tube.  Resources are listed in the telescope plans part of the website.  SWA will be hosting You Tube and JD videos, articles and talks to help guide you all along the way.  SWA will be pulling from the many resources from the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers which will be enriching for the whole process.


SWA encourages folks to make John’s solar scope which is truly his design with plans available on the site.  With all the events SWA has planned, it would be great to pull out a home-made scope in homage to John this year.


For the second year, the month of September is John Dobson Month where outreach, outreach, outreach, mixed with some telescope making are encouraged!  Sunday, September 11th is Solar Sidewalk Astronomy Day - which John’s sun scope would be great to have… but is absolutely not required.   With SWA’s new Solar SWA group more solar awareness for outreach is easy.  Plus with event planning and logging in events solar glasses are available for the cost of shipping.  (see the website for more details).


Another NEW but fun event idea is - Let Them Eat Cake!  A fun idea that SWA embraced is all the astronomy and telescope cakes out there could be a great way to celebrate John Dobson’s birthday which Wednesday, September 14th.   People are encouraged to make cakes, cup cakes or cookies with telescope and night sky themes then host a birthday star party or corner outreach with cake would be most memorable and fun.  Just don’t get frosting on the eyepiece!


Now let’s shift our paradigm and truly Reach Out Astronomy to those who may not be on the street with you.  In July, SWA has another NEW program from the 11th to the 16th take astronomy outreach into the shut ins, senior centers, veterans centers, facilities for any special needs, visually or hearing impaired, and schools that have students with any of these needs including children in the autism spectrum disorders.   Based on your venue and your guests telescopes may not be the best avenue to share the cosmos.  So SWA is actively gathering ideas, resources and links for ideas and suggestions for making hands-on activities for this part of your community.


SWA has planetary watches throughtout the year because one day can be derailed in case of weather conditions.   Mercury Madness – is featuring Mercury since he has quite an active schedule this year… from superior and inferior conjunctions to his own special day in May for his transit of the sun on May 9thI’m Your Venus – will star our only female planet with her busy schedule as well.  She will visit with the moon and some prominent stars and be the focus of the Girls Rule Day that is scheduled on Saturday, September 17th since she will be in Virgo and near Spica that weekend.  Girls Rule Day is another NEW event that will feature women in astronomy, their work, STEM activities or badge classes with girl scouts, all to encourage girls into the sciences.


Mars Attacks will feature the planet of our future colony Mars.  He will be in opposition the weekend of May 20th to the 22nd with Monday, May 30th being the day Mars will be the closest and best for viewing in 2016.  Of course he will be the focus for the Boys Night Out on Saturday, November 5th since he will be visiting with the moon that weekend.  This NEW event will feature the men who have helped to shape astronomy and the many realms of advances made, maybe some astronauts and other leaders along with STEM activities with the boy scouts and their badge class as well.


Jupiter Rising  features a weekend event and several other great opportunites throught the year. The striped giant Jupiter who will be in opposition on Tuesday, March 8th.  SWA hopes to encourage STEM related activities and observational opportunities with the public.  Of course using a Galileo scope would be a most historical and wonderful way to share Jupiter and his Galiean Moons this year.  Of course don’t forget to add that NASA’s Juno will be inserted into Jupiter’s orbit on July 4th.


Keep those Galileo scopes dusted off for SWA’s Spotting Saturn Weekend June 3rd to 5th.  Saturn is in opposition on Friday, June 3rd and would be a great day to talk about Galileo’s inability to figure out what was around the orbital body out there.  With the help of Sky and Tel moon calculator, Saturn’s moons will be easy to detect.


A great NEW event SWA has planned celebrates John’s success of getting telescopes into the national parks.  August 25th is the centennial for the National Park Service – for all of the 407 national parks here in the US.  So to maximize the family fun, and the Perseid Meteor Showers, SWA has added It’s a Family Affair Weekend on August 12th to the 14th.  Families are encouraged to camp, stay at national, state or local parks and spend the day with solar observing and night time meteor shower watching.  Holding any star party or event in a local or neighborhood park or reserve for the day will also be a chance to spend time with family under darker, optimum skies for the Perseids.


SWA’s monthly first quarter outreach will continue as a mainstay because of John’s and the public’s love of the moon but we are trying to follow a little more in JD’s footsteps by adding several interesting Moon nights to our Moon Mania program. We hope you’ll try doing some sidewalk observing when Jupiter or the Beehive is close to the Moo. Let’s consider some of the moon’s other phases with a NEW event.  A phase that is not easy to catch is the 1 to 3 day and the 28 day old moon.  But the best feature is the phenomenon called Earth Shine which the public swoons over.  So let’s hunt this down at the optimum time of year for both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. So in spring (March and April) and fall (September and October) these crescent phases are higher on the horizon.


SWA is marrying a little astro art in Moon Mania with an activity Full Moon Faces.  By using the naked eye and looking at the moon with its mare and regolith – grab a lunar atlas and a pencil or marker - give the moon a face lift.  Draw and post them.   So simple a caveman can do it.  Wait they have! On rocks and cave walls.


Of course SWA’s calendar wouldn’t be complete without the International Sidewalk Astronomy Night – ISAN 9 on May 14th!  For 8 years SWA has brought together all the like minded sidewalk astronomers and the countless international friends John made as he travelled around the world during his life – to interact with each other all on one night.  Using Face Book, Twitter and blogs or emails SWA encourages outreach with maybe some Google Hangouts and Skype exchanges to make this night richer and profound.  All of these people have been impacted by John in some way and are all celebrating him on the same night.  Doesn’t get any better than that!


The recurring event of the year is another long standing relationship John had and that is with the Death Valley National Park Service.  The day after Christmas John and his sidewalk crew would stay at the park and set up scopes during the day for solar outreach and then host night time star party for the rest of the week. So plan for the 26th to the 29th of December 2016 - and all information is on the website.  It is a great outreach event that is visited by people from around the world who love the National Parks in the US.  Several would come back every year just to visit with John.


Hopefully by hosting some of these events, you and those in your clubs and groups will be well on your way to earn the Sidewalk Astronomers Observing Pin and eclipse glasses for your events. You’ll see SA Events on the website with links to each event/program so that you can get more information. These event/programs are new so if you have ideas to make them better, easier, more popular – please let us know, we are happy to hear everyone’s ideas.


Stay connected via facebook, twitter, emails and post your events!  Have a great 2016.