NASA’s Night Sky Network is conducting a new survey in order to better help the amateur astronomy community in the United States.
Picture astronomy experienced not from the confining seats of a planetarium, but from a blanket under a sky so dark the Milky Way almost casts shadows. Now picture dozens of professional and amateur astronomers alike inviting you to look at clusters, nebulas, and galaxies through their telescopes, while diving into the secrets of the universe by discussing exoplanets, black holes, and dark energy.
These star parties, thrown by any local astronomy club, are one of the best ways to orient yourself to the night sky and the universe. And club meetings offer further opportunities still, letting you talk to researchers, try out new equipment, and even embark on citizen science adventures.
But how often do events as we’ve described here actually happen? And what are amateurs finding is the most — or least — helpful in their outreach endeavors?
NASA’s Night Sky Network is conducting a new survey to better understand the landscape of educational outreach performed by astronomy clubs. It will then use this data to assess the needs of the amateur astronomy community for the next five years.
We encourage all amateurs to spend some time taking the survey. Whether you’ve been hooked on astronomy since the space race or are entirely new to the field, your feedback is crucial. S&T will also publicize the results after they’re released and will use them as a guide in our own planning.
NASA’s Night Sky Network is a community of more than 400 astronomy clubs across the U.S. that share their time and telescopes with the public. They have held nearly 30,000 events and have inspired over 3 million members.
The survey, which will run until the end of September, is fairly straightforward. It asks questions about your local astronomy club, any astronomy activities you participate in, and any challenges you face in outreach. After the results are in, check back at Sky & Telescope, as we’ll make sure to provide an update.