How Are We Performing Astronomy Outreach During COVID-19?
"Sidewalk Science" can catch folks in real life, with new tips added as often as you'd like! Image Credit: Kirsten Vandstone 
 
Sidewalk astronomy enthusiasts have been feeling cramped in recent months due to local restrictions. But you can't keep enthusiastic stargazers down - especially those who want to share their love of space! 

Some folks are holding events online in lieu of physical meetups. Many started by using web conferencing software to hold their regular meetings. Some clubs found an unexpected bonus to this forced virtualization: they found some lapsed members had come back! Online meetings allowed some members who were unable to attend regular in-person meetings to attend once more. Since then, many clubs have begun to expand their online offerings in some wonderful and creatiuve ways.
 
preview of flyer with virtual event tips
Download the high-resolution version of this flyer here. Find even more virtual event tips here.

Online events aren't just limited to meetings; amateur astronomers and outreach folks at museums and observatories have discovered all kinds of ways to have fun and share the wonders of space online! There are now online star parties, where sensitive cameras and imaging techniques allow for live - or nearly live- views from telescopes to be shared with audiences worldwide/ Planetarium software like Stellarium, Distant Suns, Starry Night, and many others allow folks to give informative shows about what's up in the night sky. Visualization software like NASA's Eyes, OpenSpace, and Mitaka have been used to share 3D views of the cosmos. Games like Kerbal Space Program are used in rocketry lessons and just for fun. People have even started up their own astronomy-themed talk shows and panels! We've gathered up some handy tips for online events, along with helpful resources and example events to get you started, at: bit.ly/VirtualAstro  Want to find some virtual events for inspiration? Find one on the NSN calendar at: bit.ly/nsnvirtualevents

Some astronomers have taken this as an opportunity to set about outreach in real life in new and different ways.  Some astronomers post stargazing updates to local community message board; solar system neighborhood walks have popped up on quiet sidewalks and streets. There is even "sidewalk science" outreach, where tips and lessons can be communicated with passers by using just chalk and a local sidewalk or stoop! 
 
image of a man looking at cometr NEOWISE
The Westminster Astronomical Society Inc has been holding "BYOB/BYOT" events for folks who wish to view Comet NEOWISE in person. (Bring Your Own Binoculars/Bring Your Own Telescope). Photo of Skip Bird by Dylan Slagle
 
As regions slowly begin to re-open, folks may be tempted to restart star parties and sidewalk astronomy. Some folks are setting up their events very carefully, with strict limits on the numbers of folks who may attend - RSVPs are always handy for that - and either frequent wipedowns of eyepieces, or using eyepiece cameras and live stacking software to show visitors their observations at a safe distance via laptop or tablet screens. Others have held small "BYOB/BYOT" events, where guests "Bring Their Own Binoculars/Telescopes" with them and are guided on where to look by astronomy club members. Whatever you do, regardless of what type of event you hold, please be careful and follow the advice of your local health officials to ensure that both you, your club members, and members of the public remain safe and healthy. We created a flyer to hand out to folks during your events to help at: bit.ly/saferoutreachflyer  
 
thumbnail of safe physical events flyer
If you are holding in-person events, make sure to stay safe! You can download a high resolution of this flyer for your fellow event-goers at bit.ly/saferoutreachflyer

Stay safe, regardless of your outreach - and have fun! Be creative and don't be afraid to break stuff while you do so. We are all learning in these odd times. If you want some inspiration on what sorts of events you'd like to hold - or you'd like to check out some events, physical or virtual, check out the Night Sky Network calendar and find a club near - or far - from you.
 
Last Updated: July 31, 2020
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Logo for Night Sky Network featuring child and astronomer observing the skyNight Sky Network (NSN) member clubs are dedicated to bringing the wonders of space and NASA science to folks across the USA.NSN program participation provides clubs with tools and resources to assist in their public outreach. 


 
 
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The NASA Night Sky Network is managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The ASP is a 501c3 non-profit organization advancing science literacy through astronomy.