Watch the stars in April
What: The Northern Hemisphere has been treated to a daily sky show this spring as Jupiter and Venus vividly hang near the moon in the early evening sky. Known as the Venus-Jupiter conjunction, the spectacular alignment has attracted the notice of even the most casual sky watchers, though not all realize they’re viewing nearby planets, not distant stars. To promote a better appreciation and understanding of our cosmos, amateur and professional astronomers alike are celebrating Astronomy Day on April 28 and bringing the wonder of the skies down to Earth.
Background: Astronomy Day was first created in 1973 by Doug Berger, then-president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California. He and the association set up telescopes at nonastronomical sites around the area and invited the public to view and learn more about the visible sky. Today, the tradition continues, though a variety of astronomy and science groups sponsor events around the world. Each year, the day is celebrated twice, one day in the spring and another in the fall, to better capture the changing skies. This year, Astronomy Day is celebrated on April 28 and October 20.
Story Pitch: Companies associated with science and technology have good opportunities to pitch around Astronomy Day. Binocular and telescope manufacturers will want to promote their products, while also explaining to consumers how to choose the right viewing device. Makers of software and books that can help watchers find where to point their equipment should also highlight their offerings. In addition to gazing at the sky through telescopes, many sky watchers are taking up night photography, with stunning results. Camera manufacturers have a chance to promote their products with a focus on how to capture amazing views of the night sky. The day also provides an excellent teaching opportunity for schools, museums and science centers, and they will want to host events for amateurs. Additionally, aerospace companies may reach out to the public for the day to foster an interest in both viewing and exploring the universe.
Story Hook: As research techniques and scientific equipment advances, we are learning more about our nearby universe through observation. Space phenomena, like a recently studied massive solar tornado and March’s powerful solar storm, have made headlines, but also brought questions and worries from the public. Do such space weather events present any danger to Earth? How does our planet protect itself from events like these? How common is such phenomenon, and how can curious sky watchers observe or predict related sky events, like beautiful auroras? Consider the following when you make your pitch:
- Light pollution can significantly reduce the visible night sky. In what ways are cities reducing light pollution? What are great, clear-sky destinations for sky watchers?
- What are good astronomy activities for young children?
- What are some common myths or misconceptions about space?
- Amateur observers have made major discoveries in the astronomy field. How do amateurs recognize they’re observing something unknown, and how do they report their findings?
Tips: A local professional astronomer or even a meteorologist can talk about how to observe prominent and notable objects, and what to look for in the coming months. An educator who leads astronomy-related activities for children is also a great contact who can speak on how to get children interested in space.
American Astronomical Society
The Astronomical League
National Space Society
Night Sky Network
–Researched, compiled & written by Kristina Elliott
Event Dates from CHASE’S Calendar of Events
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