Directions for Planning & Executing Public Observing

Beginning of the semester

Organize the outreach calendar keeping in mind the phase of the moon (1st and 3rd quarter phases are desirable). For each date, find an available speaker and ask them to provide a title for publicity. Create a poster listing listing all the dates and lectures for the semester as well as the pertinent information (an example can be seen here.

Contact the following media outlets to advertise the events:

Pupin Hall, Columbia University: street access from 116th and Broadway (Subway Number 1 Line)

Event dates and times

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Along with other pertinent information. Sending them the entire schedule is a good thing to do. The deadline for TimeOutNY is 6pm Monday, ten days before publication.

  • event submission Include “Calendar of Events Submission” in the subject line, and the details of the event in the body of the e-mail or as an attachment.
  • Update the Columbia Sundial (calendar) application with information about the event. You must have the Sundial administrators add you as an account with your Columbia UNI. Once you log in, click on "Add Event" and fill out the form. Hints for filling it out are included below.

Sundial information

Name of Event: Astronomy Department Public Outreach presents: Public Lecture and Stargazing

Super-events and Sub-events: leave blank

Name: Outreach

Email Address:

Event Location: Pupin Hall, Columbia University: Follow signs posted in the lobby.

Current sites: scroll down, select, and ADD:

== CU Event Calendar Search Locations == - Morningside Campus

CU Morningside Campus Buildings - Pupin Laboratories

Short description: List the name of the speaker and the title of their talk first. Public access to rooftop telescopes and stargazing after lecture, weather permitting. Lecture occurs regardless.

Full Description/Summary: Every other Friday, the Astronomy Department at Columbia University sponsors public outreach. Attendees get access to astronomical information through timely lectures by members of our department aimed at a public audience. After the thirty-minute lecture, if the weather is clear, the public can proceed to the roof of Pupin Hall and be guided by volunteers in stargazing and observing through the telescopes of Rutherfurd Observatory. A slide show and discussion with an astronomer about various astronomical images happens if the weather is cloudy.

Lecturer and title:

List the title (professor, postdoctoral researcher, PhD candidate, BA candidate, etc.) and name of the lecturer along with the title of their talk.

Current Publication Status: scroll down, select, and ADD:

Columbia University Events Calendar

Columbia University Featured Events Calendar

Neighbors Events Calendar

Current Types: scroll down, select, and ADD


Academic: Lecture






Social Event/Gathering

Student Events

Two Weeks Prior to Observing

  • Contact the speaker scheduled for the observing session. Request an abstract from the speaker as well as any special equipment they might need for their presentation. Talks generally last 30 minutes and are meant to be at the level of the public (adults, students, amateurs, a few children).
  • Get graphics designer (Destry) working on posters (small--letter & big--18"x24").

One Week Prior to Observing

  • Update the outreach webpage with the abstract and title of the talk.
  • Update the outreach wiki with the abstract and title of the talk.
  • Print out small posters for lecture; post them on Pupin 5, 10, & 13, as well as around campus on bulletin boards in Hamilton, Philosophy, Lerner, Mudd, or wherever.
  • Deliver a copy of the big flier to Kristen Schneider in Low 209, so it can be put up on College Walk.

Late Morning before Observing

  • Update webpage with whether or not observing looks to be happening based on weather forecast.
  • Send out email to outreach@astro and outreach-volunteers@astro email lists with reminder/update on that nights observing.
  • Check to see what objects will be visible for observing that night (planets, Moon, deep-sky objects, etc), plan what targets should be assigned on what telescopes.
  • Email volunteers scheduled for observing (and speaker) reminding them of their obligation and giving them their telescope/object assignments. Remind them to show up 30 minutes early to help setup.
  • Check to confirm that computer/projector is working in Pupin 301 (or wherever lecture is taking place).

One Hour/Thirty Minutes before Observing

  • Put up direction signs on front door of Pupin, in front of elevator, on 13th floor, on 4th floor, on lecture door and on roof.
  • Set up projector for talk and show speaker how to manipulate it.
  • If observing, set up telescopes; show any newbies how to set them up.
  • Make sure there are a couple of volunteers on the roof at the outset in case people arrive for observing during the talk.
  • Confirm that the front door to Pupin is unlocked.
  • Print out some outreach schedule and skymap fliers for public distribution.

Beginning of Observing/Talk

  • The full audience usually doesn't arrive until about 5 minutes past, so wait a bit.
  • Welcome the audience and make any other outreach announcements. Point out the fliers and website for outreach.
  • Announce the next lecture that will take place in two weeks, as well as any other eminent outreach (or astronomical events).
  • Comment on the feasibility of observing that night, if the weather conditions seem uncertain.
  • Introduce the speaker.
  • During talk, count how many people are in attendance.

Immediately After Talk

  • Ask if there are any questions for the speaker.
  • Thank people for coming.
  • Announce the slideshow/Astrowall presentation (if there is one) or observing.
  • Point people to the roof if there is observing.
  • Point out the fliers and the website for outreach.
  • Shut down projector system and lights in lecture hall.

Immediately After Observing

  • Shut down telescopes, domes, lights (remember all the lights in the dome).
  • Take down direction signs on front door of Pupin, in front of elevator, on 13th floor, on lecture door and on roof.

A Day After Observing

  • Update public outreach webpage with next date.
  • Update outreach wiki webpage.
  • Email Millie with information about who volunteered and who should be paid.