This week, the White House kicks off a series of astronomy events with a star party.
On Wednesday evening, Oct. 7, professional and amateur astronomers will set up more than 20 telescopes on the White House lawn to give President Obama, his family, and a group of lucky middle-school students an up-close-and-personal look at lunar craters and mountains, the giant planet Jupiter and its moons, and other celestial wonders. The event coincides with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first glimpse of the heavens through a telescope, a milestone being celebrated worldwide throughout 2009, declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009).
According to a statement issued on Oct. 2 by the White House press office, the star party is being held to highlight the president’s commitment to science, engineering, and math education as the foundation of this nation’s global technological and economic leadership, and to express his support for astronomy in particular for its capacity to promote a greater awareness of our place in the universe, expand human knowledge, and inspire the next generation by showing them the beauty and mysteries of the night sky.
“We’re delighted that President Obama will take a break from his pressing terrestrial concerns to personally witness some of the same celestial spectacles that Galileo first studied 400 years ago and that revolutionized our understanding of the universe and our home planet,” said astronomer Stephen M. Pompea of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). Pompea is U.S. IYA2009 Program Director and will attend Wednesday’s star party.
President Obama will kick off the event with a brief address that will be streamed live on the White House Web site and on NASA TV around 8 p.m. EDT. The star party features interactive planetarium presentations and hands-on activities such as the construction of scale models of the solar system, simulations of impact cratering, and investigations of meteorites and Moon rocks.
- Oct. 4-10 — World Space Week (www.WorldSpaceWeek.org )
- Oct. 9 — NASA’s LCROSS impact on the Moon (Lcross.arc.NASA.gov/education.htm)
- Oct. 13 — Hubble’s Amazing Rescue premieres on NOVA (www.PBS.org/wgbh/nova/hubble )
- Oct. 9-23 — Great World Wide Star Count (www.StarCount.org )
- Oct. 19-25 — Fall Astronomy Week, including Fall Astronomy Day on Saturday, Oct. 24, organized by the Astronomical League (www.AstroLeague.org )
- Oct. 22-24 — IYA2009 Galilean Nights global star party (www.GalileanNights.org )
- Nov. 10-30 — NASA’s Great Observatories image unveiling (http://HubbleSource.stsci.edu/events/IYAfinale)
More information about the International Year of Astronomy 2009: