Astronomy Day is a grass roots movement to share the joy of astronomy with the general population – “Bringing Astronomy to the People.” On Astronomy Day, thousands of people who have never looked through a telescope will have an opportunity to see first hand what has so many amateur and professional astronomers all excited. Astronomy clubs, science museums, observatories, universities, planetariums, laboratories, libraries, and nature centers host special events and activities to acquaint their population with local astronomical resources and facilities. It is an astronomical PR event that helps highlight ways the general public can get involved with astronomy – or at least get some of their questions about astronomy answered. Astronomy Week is the same concept as Astronomy Day except seven times longer.
Astronomy Day was born in California in 1973. Doug Berger, then president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California, decided that rather than try to entice people to travel long distances to visit observatory open houses, they would set up telescopes closer to where the people were – busy locations – urban locations like street corners, shopping malls, parks, etc. His strategy paid off. Astronomy Day went over with a bang, not only did the public find out about the astronomy club, they found out about future observatory open houses. Since the public got a chance to look through a portable telescope, they were hooked. They then wanted to see what went on at the bigger telescopes, so they turned out in droves at the next observatory open house. Astronomy Day Star Party #1
Astronomy Day occurs sometime between mid April and mid May on a Saturday near or before the 1st quarter Moon. Astronomy Week starts the Monday preceding Astronomy Day and ends the following Sunday. Astronomy Week was created to give sponsoring organizations a longer period of time to host special events. Some local Astronomy Week celebrations have actually been longer than just one week.
Astronomy Day events take place at hundreds of sites across the United States. Internationally England, Canada, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, the Philippines, Argentina, Malaysia, New Guinea plus many other countries have hosted Astronomy Day activities. Each location plans and executes events that work best for their local area.
Past activities have included talks by astronauts, astronomers and NASA personnel, Moon rocks, a Moon gravity simulator, games, prizes, astronomical food, scale models of the solar system, space hardware, space ballets and poetry and, of course, actual outdoor observing (daytime and nighttime) with a telescope. Daytime observations include SAFE ways to observe the Sun. Many organizations host elaborate exhibits at shopping malls, museums, nature centers, libraries, etc. Teachers have used Astronomy Day to promote the study of astronomy with their classes.
Astronomy Day in San Antonio
The San Antonio Astronomical Association (SAAA) and San Antonio College’s Scobee Planetarium have co-hosted Astronomy Day activities for the past five years. The events usually begin at the center court of Ingram Park Mall, located at 6301 NW Loop 410. Members of the SAAA set up a large static display demonstrating state-of-the-art equipment and software used by today’s amateur astronomers. Many additional items relating to astronomy are also on display. In addition, SAAA members are available to answer questions. This activity takes place regardless of outside weather conditions.
Later in the evening, many of the scopes on display at the Mall are transported and setup in the parking lot of the Scobee Planetarium. The Planetarium is located near the intersection of San Pedro Ave. and W. Park Ave. As always, the public is welcome to stop by and catch a glimpse of whatever heavenly apparitions may be viewable on that date. Though the Planetarium itself is not open to the public, the staff usually has the observatory open for everyone’s viewing pleasure. This activity takes place only if weather conditions permit viewing.
All events are free and open to the public.