NASA Observing Challenges Special Awards

NASA Observing Challenge and Special Award Coordinator:

Richard Benson
3105 Lykes Dr. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110
Telephone: 505-340-6691


The Astronomical League has been working with NASA to bring you Observing Challenges.  These are opportunities to participate in events associated with space missions to objects within the Solar System or related to celestial events.  New opportunities will be added as new milestones for various missions or noteworthy celestial events occur.


SPECIAL NOTE: If you are looking for information regarding the Observe the Moon Night Observing Challenges, they are listed as AL Observing Challenges since they are celestial events rather than related to NASA Missions.  Click here to go to that web page.  They are done in conjunction with NASA though.

Requirements and Rules

To earn the certification, you need to meet these requirements:

  • Image or sketch the required object(s)
  • Submit that image or sketch as indicated by that challenge.  These should show as much detail as possible./li>
  • Do an outreach activity associated with the event in the challenge
  • The deadline varies for each challenge and is typically one month after the event.  Late submissions will

You do not need to be a member of the Astronomical League to receive this certification.   If you are not a member and would like to become one, check with your local astronomical society, search for a local society on the Astronomical League Website or click here.

The certificates, which are suitable for framing will be emailed to you within a month after the deadline and may be printed by you.

Current NASA Observing Challenges:

10. Parker Solar Probe – Perihelion #20 Special Observing Award. (submission deadline: 8/3/2024)

To celebrate and focus on the successes of the Parker Solar Probe, the Astronomical League and NASA are presenting a NASA Observing Challenge.  For more information on the Parker Solar Probe Mission go to the mission website.  Click here.

  • You do NOT need to be a member of the Astronomical League to participate in this challenge and to receive the certificate and pin.
  • You do NOT need to have expensive equipment to do this challenge.  It may be done using pin-hole projection.

*** WARNING ***

Before you start any solar observing activity, make absolutely certain that you have safe filters and a safe set-up.  Only use filters from reputable sources, and never use a “solar filter” that screws into an eyepiece. As Richard Hill states in Observe and Understand the Sun:  “Observing the sun is the only inherently dangerous observing an amateur astronomer can do. Be aware of this at all times and take all necessary precautions. If you do not know a filter or procedure is safe then do not use it! Always err on the side of safety. An eye once damaged is forever damaged. Filters that let too much INFRARED light through can burn an eye if used visually. There is NO PAIN when this happens. Burned retinas can not be repaired. Excessive ULTRAVIOLET light has been shown to cause cataracts. So be very careful.”

For more information on ways to safely observe the sun, click here.

These are the requirements:

  • Do an Outreach Activity to spread the word about the Parker Solar Probe and its mission.
  • Observe the Sun, between June 26 and July 3.
  • Sketch or Image the solar disk.
  • Submit the required information to the NASA Observing Challenge Coordinator before 8/3/2024.

Required Information to submit:

  • Your astronomical society association, or none.
  • Date and Time
  • Details of instrument and filters used
  • Sketch or Image of the Sun
  • Details of the Outreach Event:
    • Date and Time
    • What was the Outreach Event
    • Number of members of the public reached

Do not look at the sun without proper protection.  Safe methods for observing the Sun:

  • An H-Alpha Solar Telescope
  • A neutral density Solar Telescope
  • A neutral density Solar Filter
  • Build a Sun Funnel
  • Use pin-hole projection (no telescope required)

Note:  Eclipse Glasses, although safe to use, will not show any detail on the face of the Sun, so may NOT be used for this challenge.


NASA Observing Challenges and Special Awards Coordinator:

Richard Benson
3105 Lykes Dr. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110
Telephone: 505-340-6691

Previous Challenges that have been included in the program are:

  1. New Horizons rendezvous with Pluto on July 14, 2015 (deadline: August 14, 2015).
  2. Comet Siding Spring rendezvous with Mars on October 19, 2014 (deadline:  November 19, 2015).
  3. Rosetta Spacecraft rendezvous with Comet Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 11, 2014 (deadline: January 12, 2015).
  4. TESS – Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (deadline: July 31, 2018)
  5. Mars InSight Mission – landing is scheduled for 11/26/2018 (deadline: December 31, 2018)
  6. Apollo – 50th Anniversary (deadline: August 31, 2019)
  7. Mercury Transit of the Sun (deadline: December 11, 2019)
  8. Landing of the Perseverance Rover on Mars (deadline: March 18, 2021)
  9. James Webb Telescope (deadline: July 20, 2022)

For details on the requirements for prior awards, click here.

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