Running a street stargazing session

Reveal the wonders of the night sky in unexpected locations

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Liverpool Astronomical Society run regular street stargazing sessions. Image Credit: Jim Stacy

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The concept of sidewalk astronomy, or street stargazing as it’s called here in the UK, arose in the 1960s when John Dobson, inventor of the Dobsonian telescope, made it his mission to take telescopes out of observatories and onto the streets where more people would get the chance to learn about the wonders of the Universe.

Similar events are now being run by astronomers in cities all over the world.

With Stargazing LIVE just around the corner, this is the perfect time for you and your astronomical society to help inspire as many people as possible to take up astronomy.

The best locations for street stargazing are places with a lot of foot fall.

If you’re going out in the early evening, shopping centres are a good place to pitch your telescopes.

Later at night try outside a bar, restaurant, theatre or cinema.

Wherever you go though, make sure the location is safe and that you have permission to be there.

Unfortunately areas where there are a lot of people tend to be very light polluted, so choose bright targets that will be visible even from the centre of town, like the Moon, Jupiter or Venus.

Decide in advance so that you can put together a selection of facts about these night sky delights to really engage your audience.

You’ll be talking to a range of people with different levels of interest, some of whom may never have looked through a telescope before.

Take a variety of binoculars, refractors and reflectors so that people can try out different things to see what they feel most comfortable with.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not the most knowledgeable person in your society as long as you’re approachable and confident.

Make sure that you have a range of dates available so that you can take full advantage of clear skies.

Every community is different, so every street stargazing session will be different too.

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But the aim is always the same; to bring astronomy to the masses.