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All posts for the month May, 2006

I’d really like to see a lot more activity in astronomy for everybody in our society. Heck, I know it’s idealistic, but I wonder why we can’t get more grants for star parties, or get stargazing leagues together? While it’s great that Scouts get telescopes (and maybe share them with other non-Scouts once in a while), what else can we do for the folks who don’t belong to Scouts or other such youth groups? It’s a challenge, no doubt about it.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of media exposure for stargazing activities. Watching the stars isn’t a story that bleeds or leads, and when you see something the papers at all about astronomy, it’s rare. Yet, news about astronomy DOES get written, judging by the press releases I get in my email box each day. So, how do we translate that stuff into public recognition of the oldest science? Any ideas?

My last entry notwithstanding, there are a number of outreach efforts to bring astronomy to a wide cross-section of people of all ages, genders, and financial levels. Of course there’s the local planetarium, a place I always recommend as a good first step to the stars. But, not everybody has one. Same for astronomy clubs, but again, they’re not everywhere. The Sidewalk Astronomers bring telescopes to the sidewalks of Los Angeles and San Francisco quite regularly, offering peeks at the heavens for nothing more than the price of a few minutes of standing in line.

In Massachusetts, the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston do the same. I’m sure there are groups in every major city that set up telescopes and let people take a peek. Heck, even my friend Wendy sets her scope up occasionally in her city to show the stars and planets to anybody walking by. I’d love to hear about more such efforts to bring the stars to everybody, because they DO belong to everybody.

Here are a couple of cool stories about people sharing the stars with others. Check out this one and this one. And feel free to send me links to others. I’ll post ‘em!

Males Only?

I saw a note today about how Celestron and the Boy Scouts have teamed up to encourage interest in astronomy among America’s youth. Apparently the company is donating products to the Boy Scouts so that the organization’s members can learn more about astronomy at their camps. This is a great start on getting kids more interested in astronomy, and I’m all for it.

Let’s see though. The last time I looked, the Boy Scouts were all boys. I wonder what the girls are going to get? I didn’t see anything about the other half of “America’s Youth” who seem to be forgotten and hidden in the gender-neutral story (here). I hope that perhaps Celestron hasn’t forgotten the girls, but simply is making other arrangements to help them out, too. I hope they will make a similar story available about how they want to help more girls get into the sciences. Otherwise, this will be yet another in a long line of slights against females, who are routinely shortchanged when it comes to science education and interest. The company and the Boy Scouts are patting themselves on the back for this wonderful gift. I wonder how many girls see this and wonder “Why don’t we get this cool stuff?”

To quote president of Celestron Joseph A. Lupica, Jr., “Teaming up with the BSA is a perfect fit for us, in that we both share the desire to grow the budding curiosity of today’s young people who will launch the space and science developments of tomorrow.”

Will girls also be part of that fine future as seen by Celestron? Only time and action will tell.