Thousands of lights twinkled, not above me but below, as I descended into Los Angeles on April 4 of last year. The 24-hour Global Star Party of IYA2009's 100 Hours of Astronomy Cornerstone Project was underway. As many as a million people viewed Saturn's rings and the Moon's craters through telescopes worldwide. But another form of energy was also being focused that night - the energy of tens of thousands of amateur astronomers around the world working together as darkness circled the Earth.
I was missing the action, returning from 100HA's opening ceremony at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia after a one-day flight delay. I knew they were all down there on street corners, in parks, at local observatories, wherever there were people. I reflected on what was taking place as I glided into LAX. For four days the public had been engaged like never before, beginning online and ending with telescopes on the streets. But soon it would be over.
The excitement and energy of that night needed to be captured, harnessed, focused anew after IYA2009. Astronomers Without Borders' (AWB) mission was to connect people worldwide through a common, even universal, passion for astronomy. The 24-hour Global Star Party did that, linking us through this global event. We knew we had to follow it up this April, but repeating what had already been done seemed inadequate.
The idea of a full month of activities came from one of the most involved organizers of 100 Hours of Astronomy. Why retain the limitations of that brief event? Why not encourage all activities, on any date throughout the month? Events that were clouded out could be rescheduled. New event ideas could be duplicated elsewhere before the month ended. Less stress, more opportunities. But most importantly, new ideas and new programs could be nurtured. Programs that would continue within AWB's framework for the rest of the year and beyond. We'd engage the astronomy community, focus its energy and guide it forward. And keep it going.
GAM 2010 provided a global stage for established programs and a framework for partnerships. Some well established programs took on larger projects for GAM, like the popular StarPeace project's 30 Days of StarPeace with events circling the Earth. Online observing programs engaged people as never before, with eight programs reaching from the Sun's planets to an unseen world passing in front of its distant star, and beyond to the galaxies. One Star at a Time, a new AWB long-term initiative to engage and empower people worldwide in the fight against light pollution, got its start during GAM 2010. All these and more will continue and grow, and shine again next April in GAM 2011.
New programs and new partnerships are being developed as an outgrowth of GAM as well, and this is GAM's real goal - sustainable programs that will continue and grow. Some exciting developments will be announced before long. And it will all be based on AWB's new social media web site, a proper home for AWB's growing global community, which should launch shortly after this blog is published.
Astronomers Without Borders offers astronomy enthusiasts worldwide a place to meet and share their passion. 100 Hours of Astronomy showed how vast that community is and, more importantly, what it can accomplish. GAM 2010 recaptured and refocused that energy in AWB. But this is just the beginning. The community will continue to grow and new programs will continue to take shape. Just imagine what we'll accomplish together in GAM 2011.
Hola from Espania! Or whatever they call Spain in Spain. Oana and I are spreading the GAM gospel far and wide. Well, as far and wide as Campus Party Europe, a.k.a GEEKFEST 2010. This display of talent and innovation in Madrid sees "800 young people from the 27 European Union countries participate in activities, conferences and challenges." I'm very glad to still be considered a "young person".
ANYWAY, the idea behind Campus Party Europe is to showcase new technology. As official campuseros, Oana and I (who will henceforth be referred to as TEAM LEE) are hoping to run a GAM remote observing event on Friday 16 April. I say hope because it's not confirmed... but it's bound to happen, right? No-one could resist a GAM event. It will involve lots of people from different countries, so actually counts as a StarPeace event. How lucky is that!
At this very moment Oana is being as dedicated to the cause as ever, by Tweeting via her account www.twitter.com/oanasandu. So that's the place to go for the latest info. This blog will be far less useful. When I write for it, anyway.
COMING NEXT: Photos. With glib captions.Lee PullenOana Sandu
GAM participants are encouraged to share their events with the rest of the world-letting everybody know about the activities they organize, as well as inspiring other people to do the same. Here are four steps to follow:
The first step is registration on the GAM website so that your event can be easily found by those interested, who can search by date, venue, country or type. Follow the simple procedure on the Register Events page.
Once you are officially a GAM organizer, make sure you send the details of your event to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject title "News," and we will post this on our Members Blogs and include it in our newsletter. The details should include location, date, and a short description of the event. Alternatively, you could write a blog post in your own style and send it to us!
Interact and exchange ideas
GAM is on Facebook as well, and we would love to have you as a friend. Here you can share news updates on your events, stay tuned to latest news on GAM and connect with other organisers, asking them for opinions or support.
If you are a Twitter fan, follow us @GAM_2010 or mention #GAM_2010 and we will gladly get in touch with you, sending you information or spreading your news.
To read the latest updates, you have the News Feature page on our website, where we upload announcements regarding Global Programs and major things about GAM. The more relaxed Project Blog complements this section, where you can read all about GAM programs. Finally, subscribe to the GAM newsletter and get all the news right in your inbox.
Tell us how the event was
After your event finishes, you can send us a short description with pictures on email@example.com and we will publish your story on the Members Blog for everybody to read.
If you have a great picture, especially involving public outreach, send it to us and it might become a GAM Picture of the Day! You can also join GAM Flickr Group at http://www.flickr.com/groups/gam2010/ and share all your pictures from the event!
Finally, don't forget to submit a report of your activities!
Imagine you are in space, the Earth slowly rotating below you as each part of the globe falls into darkness and city lights spot the continents. It's a stunning view.
Now imagine that as nightfall creeps from east to west like a wave flooding the land in darkness, at each national border two groups of astronomers come together from both sides to marvel at the beauty of the stars above. The scene is repeated at the border of each successive neighboring country as night moves forward, enveloping each in darkness. Circling the Earth, the resulting relay becomes a global chain of people who are no longer different, now unified by their passion for the sky. It's a global StarPeace chain, and you can be one of its links. Celebrate "Thirty Nights of StarPeace" during Global Astronomy Month and live its motto, "One People, One Sky."
Have you made your mind up which Remote Observing Program to take part in? If you're going to have "The Universe at your Command", you may want to read up on how to use this Web-based technology.
The Virtual Telescope is a project of the Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory in Italy. Managed by Gianluca Masi, it consists of a complete observatory that is remotely accessible through the Internet. With cutting-edge technology, assistance from professional astrophysicists and a broad range of capabilities, it is one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the world, yet it is still simple to use.
As a registered user you gain full access to the telescope and its instruments via your Internet-connected computer. The free RealVNC software is used to access and control the instruments at the remote facility. Registered users receive a copy of the program that runs on their computer's operating system. Once connected, your monitor displays the desktop of the telescope control computer as though you were at the observatory. The powerful and intuitive graphical interface gives you full control of the Virtual Telescope. The control software consists of two software packages from Software Bisque - TheSky6, Professional edition to point the telescope and CCDSoft to control the telescope camera and take images.
For a step-by-step introduction, download the complete guide. It's interesting reading about how it works, but even more fun actually using it!
Remote observing is definitely the latest thing! Today, technology and the Internet enable us to have access to powerful telescopes by clicking a mouse. No cold endurance event, no instrument preparation, no traveling away from light pollution, just sitting comfortably in a warm room and -- through simple technology connected to the Internet -- you can have access to enormous telescopes in dark areas. Pretty amazing!
Some of you may think that this takes away the enthusiasm and excitement of observing in the field or the possibility of learning so many things by using your own telescope and an atlas. We agree. This is why we have prepared for you the kind of observations that are rare to get!
How many times you haven’t dreamed of taking part in a Messier Marathon, for example? Maybe you even did, but it certainly wasn’t easy to find all the objects in one night. For those of you curious to see how a Messier Marathon works, or for you more experienced observers who just want to sit back and enjoy the ride, GAM brings you the Online Messier Marathon on April 5. Stay tuned at the event’s Facebook page and register for the marathon online.
Exploring planets in other solar systems is a difficult task for even the largest telescopes. During GAM, in a remote observing program called “Is There Anybody There?”, you will be able to observe one of the known 450 exoplanets known so far as it passes in front of its sun as the star’s light dims. You can share the excitement of the event with other enthusiasts on April 7. Facebook friends are welcome to join. Event registration is online.
Asteroid hunting is the third adventure we invite you to take part in, in a challenge where you compete with the other asteroid hunters. As you probably already know, finding an asteroid gives you the incredible opportunity to name it. “Write your name in the sky” is a not-to-miss. The hunt starts on April 15, at 21:30 Universal Time. The Virtual Telescope web site has registration and a page where you can check the competition.
For those curious about local neighborhoods we suggest a journey “Across the Solar System”. You’ll travel with your friends to planets, asteroids and comets. We set off on April 22, so make sure you pack everything by then. Free tickets are available!
However, if you have a secret destination you want to explore through our telescopes, you can register on the observatory web site or on Facebook for personal observations that bring “The Universe to your Command!” Only 5 lucky people from each country will have this chance, so hurry!
This being said, fast connection @all astronomy enthusiasts out there and clear skies @GAM Remote Programs Team!
See you online at the Virtual Telescope.
Global Astronomy Month is a kinder, gentler version of 100 Hours of Astronomy. If weather was not favorable, the planned 100 Hour event would not usually have a back-up plan. It would be a too-bad-so-sad situation. A whole month dedicated to astronomy gives you some breathing room and the ability to come up with a “Plan B.” Plus, it allows you to build momentum and a following at your weekly events that would lead up to the Astronomy Day activities with the Global Star Party in the evening!
Astronomy Day, Saturday April 24, will be a great way to feature solar observing and solar information in the daylight hours, while the night is reserved for planetary and stellar pleasures. This is a great way to draw in those closet astronomers, casual observers, active astronomy clubs, and sidewalk enthusiasts of all interests and specialties. Astronomy Day is dedicated to the hobby and science of astronomy. Here, we can champion organizations such as NASA/JPL and their mission to explore our cosmos that has brought us so much cutting-edge information through the years; companies like Boeing, Northrup Grumann, and Scaled Composites for their innovations in exploration; and the Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra Space telescopes for their images and astronomical discoveries. We can also celebrate the role of observatories all over the world and the many answers they have given us about our stellar home, the Milky Way Galaxy, and the Universe beyond.
On that evening we come together under one banner, “One People – One Sky” and hold our Global Star Party paying tribute to all the international contributors to this field of science. One Planet – One Sky is literally the story of how our understanding of the cosmos came into being through civilization building upon civilization. The groundwork laid by one astronomer in one part of the globe sparked further discovery and revelation from another part of the globe until now….. we are one astronomical community with no boundaries of race, creed, color or political affiliation and we celebrate it with this unifying activity under the stars.
With the world as small as it is, and getting smaller by the minute, wouldn’t you love to take a trip with other like-minded, cosmic-watching astronomy friends? Global Astronomy Month is your ticket for a great adventure and will guarantee a memorable trip. Come join the Astronomers Without Borders as we travel the Universe together.
Welcome to the GAM Blog! As you should know by now, Global Astronomy Month (GAM) is a follow-up to the hugely successful 100 Hours of Astronomy cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The network of amateur astronomers and others around the world who took part in planning that unprecedented event -- and many of the tens of thousands of enthusiasts worldwide who took part -- just didn't want the fun to end. We agree.
But this time we have a whole month. Why so long? Are we crazy? Perhaps, but that's not the point here. There are several reasons for expanding those four crazy days to 30:
The big global one-day events that generated so much excitement in 100 Hours of Astronomy will still take place. And even more this time. There will be more international collaboration and interaction than ever, too. 100 Hours of Astronomy event organizers have told us it was the sense of one big worldwide celebration that attracted astronomers and the public, and made it all something very special. We'll be building on that in many ways.
More people, more participants, more time to share the skies with others -- locally and globally. One People, One Sky. Global Astronomy Month will have something for everyone. If you don't see what you want as the programs develop, write to us. Tell us what you want to see happening in GAM 2010. It's YOUR event.