Picture this: It's Saturday, April 4th, and all around the world astronomers are celebrating "100 Hours of Astronomy," a key component of the International Year of Astronomy. Evening twilight is descending on Washington, D.C., and on a grassy expanse somewhere in the U.S. Capitol, First Lady Michelle Obama is helping her daughters, Malia and Sasha, zero in on a fat, gibbous Moon using a telescope once owned by Thomas Jefferson.If Audrey Fischer has her way, this Kodak Moment could really happen in a month's time. A Chicago-area amateur with passion and panache, Fischer has been speed-dialing her way through the federal phone book trying to drum up support for a star party at the White House.
She has a couple of things going for her. First, it is, after all, the International Year of Astronomy — there'll be no better opportunity any time soon. And Desiree Rodgers, the White House social secretary (in charge of events like the annual Easter Egg Roll), has stated that she's looking for fresh ideas to invite the public to the White House.
On the other hand, the White House doesn't exactly have an empty dance card for the coming months. Besides, both the Smithsonian Institution's National Air & Space Museum and the U.S. Naval Observatory are already planning IYA events for April 4th. According to USNO spokesperson Geoff Chester, it's not inconceivable that the Obamas might stop by for a quick peek at Saturn or the Orion Nebula. After all, the official residence of the U.S. vice president is on the observatory's grounds.
But Fischer is still hoping for the undeniable symbolism that having an event at the White House itself would offer. (Trust me, the emails are flying among IYA and Washington officials right now.)
So what do you think? A good idea, a great idea, or pie in the sky?