Promoting and Encouraging Astronomy Outreach via the World Wide Web
It’s important in this day and age to get adults and young people off their cell phones and get them “looking up” to the heavens; to discover the wonders of the universe.
As a Volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, Solar Sidewalk Coordinator and Astronomy Outreach Network Ambassador, I travel around the country doing Solar Outreach Events with my husband and solar imager Randy Shivak and promoting outreach wherever we go.
As a Social Media enthusiast, I thought, what better way to promote and encourage people to do public Solar and night time outreach events than to use the power of the internet to get people enthusiastic about setting up telescopes and showing people the sun, stars and planets!
The August, 2013 issue of Sky & Telescope had an interesting article titled “The New Social Face of Astronomy” written by author David Dickinson, about the benefits of Amateur Astronomers using social networking to further their outreach goals and spread the word of astronomy across the globe. He writes:
“…Social Media is swiftly changing the way our society interacts, a shift that has in turn transformed the astronomical community”.
Gone are the days when astronomy clubs would have a scheduled star party and just announce it in their club’s newsletter or post it on their local grocery store’s bulletin board.
I daresay that most Astronomy Clubs today have a website and/or Facebook page. These platforms have huge potential to reach hundreds of people instantly to promote their public star parties or solar events. In addition to that, there are numerous astronomy related sites where these clubs can advertise their events reaching even more people worldwide.
On that date in 2013 when that Sky & Telescope article was written, our Solaractivity Facebook group had only 1,200 members and was not promoting any worldwide events. I’m proud to say, as of this date, 2018 we have almost 25,000 members and are promoting worldwide outreach events such as International SUNday, The Worldwide Solstice Fest, Solar Sidewalk Astronomer’s SUN-day, Astronomy Day, Solar Week, Solar Eclipse events, Transit Events, and many more.
The Worldwide Outreach Concept is simple: each of the astronomy clubs, observatories, STEM organizations, parks, planetariums and individuals hold outreach events in their own country and then share pictures on a central location and that is, the Facebook group pages that I’ve set up. The events that I set up and promote are both virtual and real at the same time and takes advantage of the power of Social media networking.
Participants range from having one person on his scooter set up his solar scope at various locations in the Netherlands country side to HUGE festivals that draw thousands of people like an event that was held in Mexico!
Each entity that I get on board as a participant and who agrees to have an outreach event in their country exponentially promotes astronomy to hundreds of people around the world in a fun and educational way !
These Astronomy Clubs promote our events on their websites and Facebook group pages, tweet about them, have live Google hangouts and do live radio blogs. The amount of advertising done by some of our worldwide events is amazing! TV, radio and newspapers cover some local events which helps even more to promote astronomy through media!
“Persistence and Perseverance”
It takes a relentless pursuit of people and clubs to get them on board with these events. They’re delighted to be invited and post tremendous heartwarming pictures from their events!
I see pictures from third world countries of children and adults in bare feet standing in long lines to look through the only solar scope the club has to offer. The look on their faces and the smiles when they finally do get to look at the sun through a solar scope makes it all worthwhile!
These pictures keep me going to continue my efforts at spreading Astronomy the best way I know how!
I got my inspiration to personally do outreach events and to promote astronomy via the worldwide web from some of THE best organizations out there like Astronomers Without Borders, The Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project, The Sidewalk Astronomers, Astronomy Outreach Network, the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers and the Astronomical League to name a few, who do tremendous work reaching thousands of children and adults via the internet AND personally promoting and spreading the science of astronomy!
I am partial to promoting Solar Astronomy because my husband Randy Shivak is a Pro-Am Solar Astronomer/Imager and is well known in solar astronomy circles.Sunspot AR 2192 – Oct. 2014. Image Credit: Randall Shivak and Alan Friedman (Averted Imagination)