Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Dawn IYA 2009 in Coastal NC, USA

Dawn IYA 2009 was not only a fun way to usher in (and introduce) the International Year of Astronomy 2009, it offered me a perfect opportunity to share the sky with fellow residents of my small town of Shallotte, North Carolina, USA.

We had beautifully clear skies for the event - that famous cloudless, Carolina Blue; and the temperatures were just right - not too hot for a sunny day, nor too cold considering the winter season.

My husband helped me with the event, assisting in the transport and setup of my telescope, banner, chairs, and pamphlets table, and by keeping me company for the duration. I was glad to have him with me. We don't often get to enjoy the sky together, and this gave us that time.

We set up near the entrance to our town, along what is essentially the only main road, fittingly named Main Street. Passersby were greeted by a large banner announcing Dawn IYA 2009 and free solar viewing and a smaller sign encouraging people to stop and look at the sun.

The solar viewing apparatus included a 10" Dobsonian telescope outfitted with a Seymour Solar filter, a 10x25 pair of Coronado White Light Binoculars, and a 12x50 pair of Celestron binoculars for non-solar viewing. Our table included various handouts printed from the Dawn IYA 2009 resources page and a homemade solar kit that included a solar glasses template and a swatch of Baader solar film.

The turnout was small but respectable considering the date. Few people were out, probably home recovering from the festivities of the night before. The good news was that all of our visitors were completely new to astronomy and had never before viewed the sun through a filter. One man even asked, "What am I looking at?" - and nearly all asked about that bright "star" in the sunset sky. They were intrigued to learn that it was actually a planet and were thrilled when I showed them Venus and the crescent moon in the daytime sky.

The excitement and curiousity was genuine and even contagious between those who happened to stop by together. Several people even asked where they could get their own telescope or binoculars. Fortunately, one of my handouts - a Fun Sun Facts that I created - included a list of various astronomy websites where they could learn more about the nightsky and even download simple charts for backyard observing.

The one unfortunate thing in all this is that I spent so much time answering questions, I forgot to take pictures! After each visitor left, I reminded myself that I needed to take pictures of the next visitors - and each time, I forgot. I do, however, have pictures of our handouts and equipment. Nothing exciting.

I have several handouts remaining and plenty of baader film for more solar viewing kits. I am planning to host another solar viewing event in a few weeks; and this time I will promote it more heavily to bring in more people. I've already been offered free printing and banner services from the local printers (Skippergraphics) for any future events.

Ultimately, my Dawn IYA 2009 event was a success. More people will "look up" and I feel confident that they, too, will encourage others to look up, as well.

Happy IYA 2009 and Clear Skies to All!
Tavi Greiner


  1. Great job, Tavi. Sounds like everyone had fun and learned a few things, too. :)

  2. Awesome example of what we can do at the local level with some preparation and willingness to talk to people who may not share our awe and humility about the Universe!

  3. great post.isn't it wonderful at the worldwide interest in astronomy,all the different cultures,countries,individuals etc.bringing the world together through astronomy,(telescopes instead of bombs:)


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