Astronomy Outreach for Unique and Non-traditional Audiences

Dr. Donald Lubowich, Coordinator of Astronomy Outreach, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 


In this session I discuss different approaches to bring science directly to the public -to people who do not regularly come to star parties, science museums, or science festivals.  My successful programs have included astronomy at free concerts outdoor concerts and low-cost music festivals; Astronomy Night on the National Mall; faith-based institutions (churches, synagogues, conferences of ministers and rabbis); Ronald McDonald Houses; children’s medical centers; summer camps for special needs children; Halloween Stars featuring costumed kids looking through telescopes; a “Super Bowl Star Party; the World Science Festival in NYC, the Princeton University Science and Engineering Expo; and the USA Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF) in Washington DC.  These activities have attracted thousands of people to astronomy, including many young girls.

I have been awarded $403,000 in NASA outreach grants for Music and Astronomy Under the Stars (MAUS); for extremely ill children and their families staying at the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, New Hyde Park, NY, and for hospitalized children at the Winthrop UniversityHospital Children’s Medical Center, Mineola, NY.  These programs have included hands-on activities, edible astronomy demonstrations (a great way to introduce children to the fun and delicious side of the hobby), and telescope

MAUS is an evening, nighttime, and cloudy weather traveling astronomy festival combining solar, optical, and radio telescope observations; a live image projection system; large outdoor posters and banners; videos; and hands-on activities before and after the concerts or at intermission. Our New York events are assisted by the Amateur Observers’ Society of NY.  MAUS attracts large enthusiastic crowds often with young children participating in this family learning experience.

With the assistance of the Adler Planetarium, the Chicago Astronomical Society, Society, Naperville Astronomical Association, Northwest Suburban Astronomer, Skokie Valley Astronomers, Skyscrapers, Inc. (Providence, RI), and Springfield Stars, music lovers at the Newport Folk (Newport, RI), Tanglewood (Lenox, MA) or Ravinia (Highland Park, IL) festivals were treated to a cosmic extravaganza.

MAUS has reached 50,000 people at events for all musical tastes including classical, folk, rock, pop, opera, and county-western.   Past performers at these concerts include Yo-Yo-Ma and the Chicago Symphony or Boston SymphonyOrchestras, the McCoy Tyner Quartet with Ravi Coltrane, Esperanza Spalding, the Stanley Clarke Band, Phish, Blood Sweat & Tears, Deep Purple, Patti Smith, Tony Orlando, Debbie Boone, and Ronan Tynan.

In 2010 I created the Astronomy Night on the National Mall co-sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.   The National Capital Astronomers, Northern Virginia Astronomy Club,  Astronomical Association of Greenbelt,  Goddard Astronomy Club, Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/Chandra X-Ray Center, the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and USASEF have participated in this annual event.

These events can have a dramatic influence on peoples’ lives. One time, seeing the rings of Saturn so excited one of the children that he ran home across the street to tell his grandmother. A few minutes later, she came out of her house in her bathrobe and slippers to look through a telescope for the first time in her life!