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International Astronomy Day
Astronomy Day will be here before you know it!
Saturday, April 28th is International Astronomy Day, and the week of April 23rd-28th is International Astronomy Week. The RASC will be joining this special day and week of celebration by hosting International Astronomy Day events across Canada. RASC Centres are busy planning local events to celebrate this occasion. Here are some guidelines for RASC Centres to host their Astronomy Day events:
- Background Information
- What to do first!
- How to make / get promotional materials
- What activities?
- Star Party Planning
- How to Promote your Activities
Background info on Astronomy Day can be found on the Astronomical League's site, at www.astroleague.org/al/astroday/astroday.html For the latest news on A-Day, please check out this page.
First celebrated in California during 1973, Astronomy Day is a fantastic way to promote your Centre, Amateur and Professional astronomy to the public. A great deal of publicity can be developed through demonstrations and exhibits carried out at a local public venue - shopping mall, museum, school, church hall etc. It spreads the word of astronomy throughout the community, and can also swell your Centre's membership. Above all else, Astronomy Day provides a way for your Centre's membership to share their experiences with other people and to focus a team effort in bringing together the displays and demonstrations for a memorable Astronomy Week.
This web site area provides Astronomy Day information, helpful hints, and suggested activities. After Astronomy Day, and provided there are submissions from the Centre's, reports and photographs from activities, demonstrations and exhibits will be posted for the world to see.
Where to get basic materials?
- Ask previous Astronomy Day Coordinator's from your own Centre
- Contact your local Science Museum
- Check out these excellent resources:
You will find information on ordering a copy of the Astronomy Day Handbook written by David H. Levy with contributions from Gary E. Tomlinson. Some of the information contained in this web page has been found in the same document. The Handbook has a wealth of information about organizing and running events and displays for Astronomy Day. Also remember that public displays can be organized any time during the year and the same basic information will be invaluable.
- Contact Sky and Telescope magazine - they will sell you a bound copy of the same handbook.
What to do first?
Establish what you/your Centre wants to do during Astronomy Week.
- Do you want to setup exhibits at a public location?
- Do you have a Theme for the displays?
- Select a location for the displays - see the sample letter to a Shopping Mall
- Possible Locations
- Local Shopping Centre/Mall
- Science Museum
- Church Hall
- Sports Arena
- Local Park or Stadium
- Do you have people to help you?
- Don't try to do everything yourself
- Ask for volunteers from your Centre - "more hands make lighter work"
How to make / get promotional materials
Your visitors should take away information about the Society and astronomy - have plenty of handouts / leaflets / documentation they can take with them. This material is your chance to provide information about your Centre, the RASC, Astronomy activities and "where to" and "how to" things. A simple 8.5" x 11" sheet, using both sides and folded into three can hold a wealth of information and be really inexpensive to reproduce. Ideas for handouts:
- Your first telescope - ask your Centre to produce a short information sheet describing the different telescope types and what to look for and ask about when buying a first telescope.
- How to Observe Meteors - Do you have a Meteor coordinator - if so ask them to write a short piece about the basic principles of observing meteors - what they are - why they can be seem - best times during the year to observe them etc. Again this only needs to be a single sheet.
- Light Pollution - Much of the public is unaware of the problems caused by the wrong use of lighting - and of the potential economic benefits of using the correct type of light fixtures etc. again ask for someone to write a short article (even a few paragraphs) on the subject.
- Your Centre Information - Develop a simple, but informative sheet describing your Centre, its membership, activities, facilities, meeting times, annual events etc. A standard 8.5" x 11" sheet folded into two makes the basis for an informative sheet that will not cost a great deal to use throughout the year. Have this available at any event your Centre does. See an example of the
Information Sheet from the Ottawa Centre.
Other sources for promotional materials are:
- Ask the RASC National Office for copies of the general flyer describing the RASC and its activities.
- Ask Sky and Telescope magazine for copies of "Getting Started in Astronomy". It is a special publication supplied free of charge to Astronomy groups. Contact them at
- Ask Astronomy magazine for their publication "Welcome to Astronomy". Again, this publication is available free of charge to astronomy groups. Contact them at www.astronomy.com or by telephone (800) 446-5489
firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone (800) 253-0245.
(Both of these publications make a fantastic impression and both magazines should be congratulated on providing this source of quality information for the general public)
- Ask your local Science Museum for any materials they would be willing to provide
- Contact any local suppliers of astronomical equipment for catalogues and information - they will be more than willing to help especially if you make a point of mentioning their name at your display.
This is where the rubber meets the road - once you have established where you are going to hold the event, the very next question is "What will be displayed and what exhibits or demonstrations"? Obviously "the what" is displayed will depend on the type of location and facilities that are available at the site you have chosen. A typical agenda for Astronomy Day might be:
0800 Interview at local radio station
0830 Start Installing displays at the Mall
0930 Mall opens and public arrives
1030 1st Slide presentation
1230 Interview with local press reporter
1330 2nd Slide Presentation
1730 Dismantle displays
1830 Local Star Party
Remember to follow the rules of the Shopping Mall or public facility you are using to the letter - you want to leave a good impression so that next year they will want to ask your Centre back. A successful exhibit / display for the Centre will attract more people to the Mall and therefore create more exposure for both the Mall and Centre.
Make sure that the operations people at the Mall or facility you are using know what you plan to do - don't change this without letting them know. The more professional the displays the better the response will be. The following lists a few ideas for the displays and exhibits your Centre might undertake:-
- Information Desk - make sure you have plenty of handouts and information to give each visitor to your displays. See the list above. Have membership applications for the RASC available. Make sure you have a visitor LOGBOOK.
- Telescope Display - A local Astronomy supply store might be willing to supply a range of telescopes and other related products. Members of your Centre can bring telescopes as well. Remember if you are using equipment supplied by a third party make sure it is well cared for and secure. It is usually quite difficult to find something interesting to look at through a telescope, inside a building. Make a "correct" sized image of Jupiter or Saturn printed on a black background, and mounted onto a sheet of black felt or non-shinny cloth. Place this image at the right distance from the telescopes so that when viewed the image will provide the right size as if seem in the night sky. Last year at a local Mall in Ottawa an image was placed 275 feet from the telescopes and convinced visitors that they were really looking at Saturn!!!!!
- Crafts Table - develop a number of craft activities for children to do while visiting the displays. Make a constellation viewer from a card tube and dark paper held over one end by and elastic band. Provide drawings of astronomical objects to be coloured. Make a simple astronomy quiz.
- Theme Display - Build a display based on a particular theme - Our Solar System and planets, The Milky Way, Constellations etc.
- Computer Programs - There are many computer programs available - setup a computer and display to demonstrate the different types.
- Video Presentation - Many organizations have Space, Astronomy and related video presentations available to Astronomy Groups - setup a suitable video display and run the tapes throughout the day.
- Slide Presentation - Many Centre's have Astrophotography enthusiasts - this is a great way for them to show off their achievements. You might be able to operate a narrated slide presentation on a routine schedule throughout the day. This is an ideal setting also for question/answer sessions.
- Extraterrestrial Rocks - Have a display of Meteorites - get a knowledgeable person to answer questions. Have the public bring their own mystery rocks for analysis.
- Mirror Grinding - If you have the people and facilities setup a mirror grinding demonstration. - Let the public have a go!!!!
- Astrophotography Display - Select photographs to be enlarged and used as part of the display booths etc. It is amazingly low cost to have some spectacular images adorn the display area.
Star Party Planning
Following your demonstrations and displays organise a Star Party to round out the day. If you are planning to do this make sure you have a flyer made to hand out during the day (see sample Appendix C below) - include description of the Star Party (what the public can expect to see), where it is being held and the starting times. Remember this is another opportunity to ask the media to cover the event. Also provide helpful hints -in some parts of Canada the first week of April is still quite cold, suitable clothing will help to make your visitors more comfortable. At the Star Party remember the following:
- Supervise the parking - have a team available for this important task
- Provide an information table where visitors can be greeted
- Visitor LOGBOOK
- Provide simple red filters for visitors flashlights
- Have a certified First Aid volunteer available
- Make sure that people can move around the site safely
Remember to have a schedule for volunteers. This should include when they arrive and what activity they will be working at. Make sure you schedule in sufficient time for breaks and sufficient people to spread the load. A well-organized exhibit will be a successful exhibit which will enthuse the volunteers.
One of the volunteers should be responsible for making a photographic record of all the activities. Use more than one camera, there is always the chance for a camera to fail.
How to Promote Your Activities
In order to promote your Centre's public displays and activities you will need to get the word out. Once you have established when, where your group will be putting on the public displays, you can start publicizing them. Have someone, or a team of volunteers, handle contacting the media and distributing the information. The general rule for this activity is "the earlier the better". First put together a Press Release - properly formatted (double spaced lines and a specified date for release) - containing the information you want to publish. Then contact the following organizations:
flyer describing the Centre's activities - distribute it to as many of the local libraries as possible - you will usually need to speak to the Librarian.
- Local newspapers - develop a list of the local newspapers and obtain contact names and telephone numbers. Send them the press release clearly stating when it is to be released.
- Local Radio Stations - contact each of your local radio stations - they usually will promote a Public Service Announcement - if you want to be really adventurous and have the necessary people ask for the opportunity to be interviewed on-air either before or during your displays.
- Local TV Stations - same as the radio stations TV stations will support Public Service Announcements.
- Sky and Telescope Announcements - if you have access to email send your information to email@example.com - the information will be displayed on the calendar section of their web page. If you don't have access to email send a letter to them with the information. If you are early enough, (up to 4 months prior to your events) you might also be able to have your event added to the calendar of events in the Sky and Telescope publication closest to your event. Sky and Telescope, 49 Bay State Road, Cambridge, MA 02138-1200 U.S.A.
- Astronomy Magazine Announcements - they have the same service as S & T contact them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail. Meetings and events, Astronomy Magazine, PO Box 1612, Waukesha, WI 53187-1612. U.S.A.
- Local Libraries - Produce a simple and effective single sheet
- Local Businesses - Ask each of your Centre's members to take one or more of the flyers and have them displayed at their place of work, local Community Centre, schools etc.
Getting information out, and in front of the public, is the best way of promoting your activities during Astronomy day/Week. So make sure you enlist the help of sufficient volunteers to pursue this activity - it will reward your efforts.
During the Event
Make sure that at least one person, with first aid certification, is available at all times during the demonstrations - if not, make sure the volunteers know where to seek medical help. A person should also be responsible for reviewing the safety aspects of the exhibits and demonstrations. Keep adequate notes at all times - these will help you prepare a more successful event in the future.
After the Event
Following your event/s make sure you meet with the people involved with its organization. Take note of possible improvements that could be made to next years Astronomy Day events. (Remember you do not need to undertake these activities only during Astronomy Week - the public will respond to interesting displays, demonstrations and activities any time of the year). Start compiling a Public Events manual - it can be used by those who follow you. It will help to hone your Centre's skills at putting together public demonstrations.
Your volunteers are vital for future Astronomy Week events and other Centre exhibits and demonstrations - provide a forum to recognise the team that helped to make your Centres' event a great success. A report published in your Centres' newsletter is an ideal place to list the names of volunteers.
The following additional resources may help you with preparations:
- A sample RASC Centre Brochure
- A sample Press Release
- An RASC Centre Star Party Flyer
- An example of a Mall Letter explaining the RASC and Astronomy Day
- NRC Planisphere
- Sky Map