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Outreach

This page is designed to keep members of the Columbia astro community informed of outreach events. Most importantly, it allows people who are interested in volunteering to check in and see what is being planned and where their help is needed. There is also a mailing list for outreach volunteers that can sign up for at https://mail.astro.columbia.edu/mailman/listinfo/outreach-volunteers.

The official homepage for our outreach activities (the public website) is http://outreach.astro.columbia.edu; there you can read the schedule, sign up for our public mailing list, and check up on the weather and other links.

If after reading this you think there's a way you'd like to help out, or you have a suggestion, please contact Summer Ash. Remember that you do not have to have any experience doing outreach/teaching to participate. The most important thing is that you care and want to share the Universe with people; after that everything will fall into place!

Rutherfurd Observatory

Information on the telescopes and facilities on the roof of Pupin Hall can be found on the Rutherfurd Observatory Wiki.

If you would like access to the observatory manual for use, care, and maintenance of the telescopes and facilities , please check out the Observatory Manual.


Upcoming Events

Note: If you are signed up to volunteer for a date and you cannot make it, you must find someone to replace you. Please inform the relevant Captains for the evening of who your replacement will be.

Scheduled

Nov 10, 7:00 - 9:00pm Rudy Montez - Going out in style: Nebulae at the end of a sun-like star’s life
Lecture Captain: Emily Sandford
Lecture Volunteer: Harrison Cook
Roof Captain: Aleksey Generzov
Roof Volunteers: Betsy Hernandez, Haley Fica, Matthew Abruzzo, Adam Wheeler
3D Wall:

Nov 27th or 28th, 7pm - 9pm Sidewalk Astronomy
Coordinator:
Volunteers (4-5):

Dec 1, 7:00 - 9:00pm Sarah Scoles (book talk) - Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Lecture Captain:
Lecture Volunteer:
Roof Captain:
Roof Volunteers: Brian Smallshaw
3D Wall:

Dec 15, 7:00 - 9:00pm Rachel Rosen - TBD
Lecture Captain:
Lecture Volunteer:
Roof Captain:
Roof Volunteers: Brian Smallshaw
3D Wall:

Overview of Activities

Public Lectures and Stargazing Nights

We try to do a stargazing session every roof. Each stargazing night is coupled with an astronomy talk and a slideshow or two. The talk & slideshows are especially worthwhile when the sky is cloudy, which is usually the case (less than half of the nights are clear from NYC). Traditionally it has been Friday nights; however, transient events like eclipses, transits, and comets demand alternative scheduling.

These are a lot of fun when the weather cooperates. Turnout is typically around 150 - a mixture of Columbia students (15%), local families (20%), and amateur astronomers (5%) and interested adults from the community (60%). At a recent event we took an informal poll of the attendees and determined that only 25% of them were affiliated with the University, meaning that 75% of our audience is from the general public as a whole (great news)! Furthermore, 25% of our audience is coming from outside of Manhattan, which surprised us all.

Lectures typically last 30 minutes, and stargazing follows that for another 90 minutes or so. We offer slideshows (essentially mini-lectures) concurrently with the stargazing so that people can cycle between the various stations and get more out of the event (or get a respite from the cold).

Our volunteer staff consists almost entirely of graduate students, although we have a few undergrads and post-docs who make occasional appearances. We currently have a healthy core of observing volunteers, but it's always good to have different faces, so sign up (or just show up to see what it's like)! If you are unfamiliar with our equipment, training sessions with the veterans can be arranged.

Here is a list of instructions/responsibilities for the various roles associated with Public Lecture and Stargazing Nights. If you are signed up for a given role, you must know your responsibilities.

and here are some additional resources for planning/executing observing on the roof or activities after the lecture:

Science Fiction Film Series

In addition to our normal public lectures and stargazing, we sometimes offer science fiction film screenings. The idea is to show people astrophysically-themed films with varying amounts of fact and fiction. Each film is accompanied by a short lecture discussing the relevant science and fiction. As in all our Friday night events, we also offer observing if the weather cooperates. However, we don't open up the roof but just have our portable telescopes brought to College Walk or in front of Pupin.

These events begin with announcements by the Movie Captain, a brief(along with relevant themes to look out for during the film, or the context in which the film was made or other interesting non-spoiler information). Then the film is shown in its entirety. After the film, the audience is invited to remain for the ~the relevant science in the film, as well as an informal (~ discussion between scientists and the audience. In addition, if the weather permits, we have telescopes set up outside of Pupin for audience members to look through on their way out. Since the films have varying durations, this event can take anywhere from to in total.

Our volunteer staff consists almost entirely of graduate students, although we have a few undergrads and a post-doc who make occasional appearances. We currently have a healthy core of observing volunteers, but it's always good to have different faces, so sign up (or just show up to see what it's like)! If you are unfamiliar with our equipment, training sessions with the veterans can be arranged.

Here is a list of instructions/responsibilities for the various roles associated with Public Lecture and Stargazing Nights. If you are signed up for a given role, you must know your responsibilities.

Movie Nights have a slightly different layout:

and here are some additional resources for planning/executing observing:

Family Astro

We hold "Family Astro" days on a day each semester, on a hands-on activity in the library. Resources for planning the activity are on the web; for example: here). Aside from running the lesson for or so, the volunteers need to get materials and snacks. It is a four-person job if there is a typical turnout of about. Since that number can vary widely, it is useful to ask parents to sign up in advance.

Activities for Family Astro
Activities for Group Visitations
Slideshows

Group Visitations

We get frequent requests from school/scout/activity groups to come visit the department. We handle these on a case-by-case basis, but generally all groups get a tour of the observatory, observing and some sort of lesson administered by our volunteer graduate students. Events typically end by 10.

Activities for Family Astro
Activities for Group Visitations
Slideshows

Sidewalk Astronomy on Harlem

We take our portable telescopes out and engage the public on their turf. We carry one/two 6" Dobsonians to the Adam Clayton Powell Plaza and clear evenings. Sky lights are bright, but from here we have a good view of the ecliptic, Orion, Taurus, etc. Observation of deep-sky objects is difficult, but views of the first-quarter moon and planets. Very rewarding with ~ stopping to look through the telescopes per hour.

Educational Material Giveaways

After writing to the EPO officers for several NASA space telescopes, we've received an abundance of outreach materials including posters, pins, pictures, CDs, bookmarks, trading cards, etc. We give these away at our events depending on supplies.

3DWall Events

There is a stereoscopic projection system (i.e. movies) installed in the classroom (Pupin 1332) that is relatively easy to set up and use. It includes a wide range of astronomical datasets from stars to the cosmos and has been used for a number of public outreach and education activities (including some Public Lecture Nights). For more information and training, please see Greg Bryan and read its wiki entry.

Rooftop Variables

A new outreach program entitled Rooftop Variables began in October 2008. Spearheaded by Marcel Agueros and funded by a Chandra grant, this program pairs graduate students with motivated high school science teachers from around New York City. The program provides the teachers with an 6" telescope and a CCD camera for use with their science students with the aim of starting an astronomy club at each respective school. Furthermore, the grads mentor the teachers in proper use of the equipment and teach them how to make variable star observations (as per http://www.aavso.org) so the teachers are actively contributing to the scientific community. (Variable stars are an area where the amateur community has a huge impact on observing programs). If you'd like to learn more or potentially volunteer, Rooftop Variables has its own website at: http://rv.astro.columbia.edu.

Middle School Program

The middle school program is designed to bring astronomy, in particular galaxies, into classrooms throughout New York City through presentations by Columbia astronomers. The presentation currently available is called, 'A Day in the Life of an Astronomer', and follows an astronomer to an observatory and discusses the light detected and the nature of the observed galaxies. The program is interactive throughout and includes numerous pictures and movies of galaxies, astronomers observing, and the basics of light and gravity. The students also receive a 'kit', including a diffraction grating, a pencil to demonstrate gravity, and a galaxy picture. An additional program entitled, 'Our Place in the Milky Way', is being developed that will involve flying from New York City to the outskirts of our Galaxy. The program began visiting schools and reached over. Please contact mputman@astro.columbia.edu if you are interested in this program.

Outreach Officers

Attachments