Halloween is coming, and with it hordes of little ghosts and goblins shouting, "Trick or Treat!" Usually people will hand out candy as a treat, but what if you were to hand out a beautiful image of the Moon or stars in your eyepiece instead ? (Of course, you can also hand out candy in addition to free viewings if you want to become the favorite house on the block.)
Sidewalk astronomy is one of the more random and most rewarding types of outreach an observational astronomer can do. Even in the bright lights of the city the Moon and major visible planets are always visible and are a perfect treat to hand out to visitors of all ages. Plus, you get to dress up as well; what a perfect excuse to hang out with the trick or treaters as an adult! For example, the folks at the Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers had a great time with their past Halloween sidewalk astronomy events as you can see here and here.
So, what to do? It's easy! Set up your usual observing equipment outside your own house if you like; dress in clothes (or better yet, costumes!) that are warm and comfortable. Have a couple of Jack O'Lanterns and other spooky decorations to announce that you are welcoming trick-or-treaters of all ages. Jane Houston Jones updates her "Spooky Observing List" every year and by going here you will get the latest in fun targets for both yourself and your visitors. The Moon will be visible in an excellent phase this year, and may be the best and most rewarding target for youir little visitors!
Of course, you can find other events in your area and see what clubs are up to by checking out the Night Sky Network's events list. Remember: Stay safe, stay warm, don't eat too much candy, and most important-have a happy Halloween!
We invite you to join the NASA Night Sky Network stargazing community on Facebook and Twitter for sky charts, beautiful images, and lively conversation.
Distant Suns, your personal guide to the cosmos, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the main navigation bar. Distant Suns is available on iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and NOOK.
SkySafari, a powerful planetarium that fits in your pocket, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the help menu. SkySafari is available for Android and the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
Clear skies and happy stargazing!
The NASA Night Sky Network is managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in cooperation with NASA.