April 25, 2008 

Congratulations to all of you for making ISAN 2008 a success! We've received updates and photos from many of you and it seems like you had great events. We don't have very accurate accounts of numbers from many of you, but just the "firm" numbers are over 10,000 people observing. We may post the photos but it will depend on time - we are already moving forward to IYA and there is a lot of work to be done in a very short time!


The Sidewalk Astronomers are extensively involved in many of the IYA projects, which is to be expected since so many of the projects rely on amateurs and "sidewalk astronomy."  In this newsletter we're outlining some of these programs and our objectives for 2009. Fortunately, many of these programs overlap and we will be able to utilize central resources for more than one program.


We need you! You have the experience, knowledge and passion for astronomy that will be needed if IYA is to succeed. This is also the perfect opportunity for you to increase membership in your local club and the absolute best time for individuals to get involved! Please take a look at the following areas we are working on and let us know if there are other IYA programs you are already involved in.


We also want to thank all of you again. The Sidewalk Astronomers have been contacted to work on these IYA projects because of our visibility in the worldwide amateur astronomy community and that wouldn't have happened if ISAN hadn't been so supported by all of you last year and again this year. John Dobson, Jeff Roloff and Bruce Sams started this club to show the people on the streets in San Francisco the night sky and 40 years later we are showing that sky to the people of the world because of you!

100 Hours of Astronomy


This project is basically 100 hours of astronomy events starting April 2 and continuing until April 5, 2009. There are two main parts of the project - research observatories and "sidewalk astronomy"   Astronomers Without Borders is taking the lead on the "sidewalk astronomy" part of the project which covers 1) sidewalk astronomy, 2) science centers, and 3) schools. We have joined the project and are basically handling 1) sidewalk astronomy but will be using our network as support for the other areas.  The project calls for a 24 hour worldwide public star party to be the central point of these 100 hours, so we are planning the 3rd  ISAN  to be held on April 4, expanding it to include more traditional public astronomy events. While we still want guys out there ambushing the public with telescopes, we also want clubs to hold big events. We hope to have live video and audio feeds during the event and also live podcasts.



We'll need amateurs to plan several events before and after ISAN and are looking for a wide variety of event types and locations. We want to have events everywhere possible - every city in every country. Events will be held at observatories, museums, science centers, planetariums, city parks, libraries, on cruise ships and airplanes, on military bases - anywhere there are people who need a chance to see the sky and want to be a part of this historic event.


We want events that reflect the diversity of our cultures and locations. We need everyone on the planet to attend, so we need big events and small events and events in out of the way places - small islands, far northern Siberia, Antarctica,  - we want to reach everyone. And we don't want to leave anyone out - we need to go to people that can't come to us, people in retirement homes, hospitals, deaf schools, etc.  


Get creative, forge relationships with others in your area and not just astronomers. Partner with clubs interested in our planet and those that live on it - nature groups, animal concern organizations, human rights and environmental groups. Contact the local rocket club, theater group, local bands, remote controlled airplane clubs, ham radio clubs - use your imagination.


Some ideas for events:

·Observing at planetariums, etc.  in support of their programs

·Traditional sidewalk events at various locations

·100 hour observing marathons- with special focus on ISAN Global Star Party

Have community theater perform a play about Galileo/famous astronomers with observing outside

·Have local music group/symphony put on Holst's The Planets/observing outside

·Have roving astronomers move around the city


·Send us your ideas! You guys did some great things for ISAN.




Please visit the IYA website and look under the Cornerstone Projects for information on 100 Hours of Astronomy.




This program wants to get 10 million people looking through a telescope in 2009. Part of the project is to make small, inexpensive telescopes available for a small price (approx. $4) that members of the public could take home with them. Another area they are working on is a "telescope amnesty" program where people bring in telescopes they've purchased but no longer use.


Our role in this project will be helping those 10 million people get a chance to look through a telescope. If we can expand current activities of local clubs and programs developed as part of 100 Hours of Astronomy and ISAN, we will greatly increase the chances of success. We will also possibly assist in helping to distribute the small telescope kits and helping to coordinate the exchange of telescope from those who have them and don't use them to those who want them but can't afford them.


More information on this program will be available in the coming weeks.


Looking Through a Telescope and Dark Sky Awareness


We don't have a lot of information on these projects yet, please check IYA's website for more information. We're just starting to get involved in these projects and will keep you updated.


This is the list of projects we are currently involved in, if you are working on national projects, please let us know so we can add them to the list.


100 Hours of Astronomy


Dark Skies Awareness

Looking Through a Telescope - USA

To support these programs, we'll need an assortment of resources from feet on the ground, organizational personnel, and prepared hand outs to  instructional guides. We are also looking ahead to how these resources will benefit the Sidewalk Astronomers after 2009. This is a preliminary list of what we need:


Feet on the Ground - we need to expand our contact list to 10 times as many amateurs. If each of you can recruit 2 or 3 amateurs that don't regularly do public events and get them involved, and they recruit 2 or 3 more then we'll be on our way. There are lots of amateurs out there that don't do public events or who do them but aren't connected to any club or organization - we NEED them.


Organizational Personnel - we'll need Regional Contacts. We have some regions covered from ISAN but there are other areas where we have no one and some areas we have more than one. We need someone to be in charge of organizing the areas and the contacts as well as the regional contacts themselves. We will also need Crew Members for Sidewalk Astronomers IYA Task Force.

And lastly, but not less important - we need Translators in all languages.


Prepared Handouts 

We'll need handouts on various viewing objects and astronomy topics. Part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy deals with science centers and schools and while we won't be developing those programs, observing by amateurs will be an important support component. These programs haven't been fully developed, but if you have informational handouts that you use, please send them to us. Also, if you do outreach programs such as lectures or powerpoint presentations, please send those also as it might be incorporated or useful in these areas of the project.


How To Guides      

We are compiling pamphlets for the following types of events. If you have suggestions or printed materials that you already use, please send them to us. The areas we are covering are: location, equipment, promotion, setting dates for events, examples of how to talk to the public. We need concrete information, not authors. Many of you have been working with the Yahoo group on a Sidewalk Astronomers handbook and much of that information will be useful. These guides will be available as .pdfs and probably also as printed versions that can be purchased. 
Phamplets include:
   *Event Planning
*Telescope Use
*Solar Observing
Join Us!
Please write "IYA Volunteer" in the subject of your email if you want to help.



If any of you purchase books or other items from Amazon, please get there through our website. If you go to and visit the shopping page, you'll see some books that are available from Amazon. Just clicking on one of those books will take you to the Amazon site and any items that you purchase qualify the Sidewalk Astronomers to a percentage of the purchase price.


You don't have to purchase the books listed on our site - any books and many other items are eligible for the percentage. Programs like this allow us to offer free membership to those who can't afford yearly dues.

Donna Smith
Sidewalk Astronomers
To volunteer for IYA events, send emails to