(Credit: Becky Lowder)
Some of the stories that Night Sky Network members tell are touching, others funny, but all of them show the enthusiasm that astronomy clubs are putting into outreach. Here are some of the ways that events throughout the country have touched people and inspired them to look up.
Sarah Ellen Thompson from the Whatcom Association of Celestial Observers in Bellingham, WA tells how their club reached out to astronomers of all ages at their Mercury transit event: "There was one 10-year-old girl who had met the club at a summer event and who lived about a 30 minute drive away. Her grandmother drove her into town and she stayed for the entire event. She went from scope to scope, observing device to observing device, learning how each works and comparing the views. Her parents tell me she is very interested in astronomy. There was also an older woman who was awestruck at her first direct look at the surface of the sun (with the aid of a H-alpha filter). She confided in me, 'I have always loved astronomy but my husband won't have a thing to do with it. He can't understand what I find so fascinating about it. I had to come down here by myself but I am sure glad I did!'"
From the Darien O'Brien Astronomy Club in Lakewood, CO, Darien O'Brien relates how the Night Sky Network has helped their club bring astronomy down to earth: "Our star party was a great success because the Toolkit provided excellent demonstrations and explanations (especially inspiring to our elementary school age members) of events that our club has been involved with over the past 2 years including phases of the Moon, eclipses, transits as well as providing an opportunity to discuss NASA's Kepler mission to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of stars. This made for a fascinating, timely and relevant star party. Because of the Toolkit's focus on many of the concepts and recent astronomical events that members of our club have been fortunate to witness, we believe this to be the best star party we've had to date."
Erich Bender from the Westminster Astronomical Society, Inc. in MD tells us about what a good time he has working with students and correcting common misconceptions: "We started tonight out with the solar system and our place in the galaxy. For some strange reason they think that we are near the center. The Night Sky Network stuff has been a huge hit, they were learning and having fun. The staff at the school has commented about how the kids enjoy this class. I am enjoying this as much as them I think."