Posted by BC on June 2nd, 2008
The interest in casual star (or Moon) gazing is usually piqued when members of the general public hear that an observing session is available to them. Many people have telescopes that they “…just can’t seem to make work,” and they would really appreciate someone showing them how to use it. Other people have interesting questions to ask. Why not wrap all of this up into one session and have fun doing it?
Sidewalk astronomy is one way in which people in the know can provide a service to the community. If you have a portable telescope of any size, and/or binoculars, you can conduct a sidewalk session. I recently conducted a viewing session, along with a few friends and three telescopes, at one of the coffee houses in a nearby community. A few flyers went out to announce the session, and one of the television stations mentioned it. We had a few people come out to look at the Moon, even though the skies were still farly sunlit. The Moon is a good target from the city, and most people enjoy observing the craters.
All it takes to arrange a sidewalk astronomy session is a public place, which is usually fairly easy to find, an astronomer or a few (of any experience level), and a bit of press (to get the word out). If you provide the session, curious people will come. It does not take anything but a little effort to provide a great time for new observers.
For more information on sidewalk astronomy.