Halloween Outreach: Trick or Treat Sidewalk Astronomy
Member of the Astronomers of Verde Valley show a costumed visitor a view of the daytime Moon at the Star Party for Clarkdale Halloween event.
photo credit: J.D. Maddy

Spooky stargazing can be a lot of fun! If you want to get lots of kids to your telescope, performing sidewalk astronomy on Halloween may sound like a perfect idea, and the American Astronomical Association (AAS) agrees! The AAS Division for Planetary Sciences' "Trick or Treat and Telescopes" initiative is aimed at bringing astronomy to as many trick or treaters as possible on Halloween.  This new initiative is based on an activity that AAS member Richard Schmude Jr. performed for years, with over 5000 children reached by his count. Amateur astronomers are encouraged to set up their telescopes during trick-or-treat time on Halloween onn their own lawns, sidewalks, or even in neighbor lawns with better viewing conditions or more traffic.

Some important tips for great Halloween stargazing include :
  • Preserve Night Vision with Red Light:  Use red lighting in your viewing area. This keeps pedestrians visible to cars without ruining your ability to see the stars. Red light is also a appropriately moody and spooky. If you are near a busy roadway, consider a prominent sign to let cars know folks might be gathered and easily blinded by headlights.
  • Temporary Storage for Elaborate Costumes and Masks: Some costumes will not be ideal for peering through an eyepiece. Have a space to take off and store cumbersome costumes or masks while viewing.
  • Prepare for Sticky Fingers and Messy Faces: Candy is great, except when it gets on your optics and equipment! Baby wipes or a little hand-washing station will reduce the risk to your equipment (note: this also helps with accidental makeup smears!) Ken DeSilva shared a great hack for keeping eyepieces clean with rings of PVC pipe- an especially handy trick for dealing with Halloween makeup! : https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/news-display.cfm?News_ID=980

Photo of a child in a Tin man costume looking through a telescope
A  Tin Man takes a look at Jupiter through a telescope at a Halloween stargazing event held by the South Bay Astronomical Society
photo credit: J. Fierstein

You can check out the Trick or Treat and Telescope's page on the AAS website for more advice and connections to additional resources to help you make the most of your potential trick or treating stargazers. Jane Houston Jones also offers a fun Spooky Stargazing list, with a wide variety of objects to keep every level of visitor entertained!

Find other events in your area and see what neighboring clubs are up to by checking out the Night Sky Network's events list for Halloween. Stay warm and stay safe this Halloween, and may your skies be clear and the weather great-not just for great stargazing, but for great trick or treating!

Photo of a child dressed as an astronaut peering through a telescope during a Halloween star party
 Student dressed up like an astronaut looks at the 3 day old moon at the Marin Nature Center Trail Hike event with help from members of the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club
photo credit: R. Christian Bruggerman

Last Updated: October 20, 2021

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