Since 1989, Sky & Telescope has honored the organization whose events and displays were judged most successful in achieving the core concept of Astronomy Day, "Bringing Astronomy to the People." The primary winner receives two prizes: a plaque awarded at the Astronomical League's annual convention and $250.
You'll find that people interested in astronomy are attracted to well-arranged, interactive displays — and that's exactly what the award's judges are looking for. In 2001, for example, the Sudekum Planetarium of Nashville, Tennessee, won for its wide-ranging program of informal talks, hands-on demonstrations, solar observing, displays, and special planetarium shows.
The rules to apply for the award are simple:
1. Eligibility is open to any nonprofit organization that promotes astronomy or space science. Planetariums and science museums, astronomy clubs, universities, and observatories or combinations thereof are all eligible. However, organizations may not enter both individually and as part of a larger group.
2. All entries will be judged on the following:
• Originality and effort
• Effectiveness of the sponsored events
• Most productive use of local resources
• Uniqueness of local events
• Carrying out Astronomy Day's primary theme
("Bringing Astronomy to the People")
• Carrying out any secondary annual theme that may exist
3. All entries must be postmarked by June 13th of each year (Astronomy Day itself occurs in April or May).
4. The award is judged by the Astronomical League, not Sky & Telescope.
5. One primary prize winner will be chosen and notified by July 31st.
6. The Astronomical League may also choose Secondary Award and Honorable Mention winners (who will receive certificates), though not all awards may be presented each year. Secondary Awards are given for:
• Best new idea
• Organization that does the best event for its size
• Organization that does quality events year after year
(as determined by previous entries)
For organizations and individuals needing assistance in planning Astronomy Day programs, the Astronomical League and Sky & Telescope have prepared a 66-page Astronomy Day Handbook with tips for conducting large and small endeavors. You can obtain a copy by sending a check for $3 postage ($4 outside North America) to Astronomy Day Coordinator Gary Tomlinson, 30 Stargazer Lane, Comstock Park, MI 49321. The Astronomical League also maintains a helpful Web page about Astronomy Day.
Here are a few time-tested suggestions for a winning presentation:
• Involving all astronomy related groups in your area is viewed as very positive by the judges. So is promoting that year's special theme (if there is one).
• The entry of a previous winner of the primary award must be extraordinary to win the same award in subsequent years. However, winning one award doesn't preclude an organization from winning a different award, either that same year or in some future year.
• Compose your photographs. Look through back issues of Sky & Telescope to judge what kind of photos are desirable. (There is nothing wrong with posing a picture, as long as it portrays the situation legitmately.) Include a labeled copy (2 inches across or larger) of any digital image(s).
• Edit videotapes, if possible, to include only those scenes pertaining to Astronomy Day. Also, if the Astronomy Day material is not at the beginning of the videotape, indicate where it starts. VHS format only, please.
• Host your event on some date other than the "official" one will not preclude you from winning.
• A co-sponsor is an organization that helped in planning and set-up; a participant is an organization that promoted itself using space at your Astronomy Day event.
Submitting Your Entry
You do not have to use the official entry form, but you must format your entry the same way, using the same headings and answering all the questions. Attach additional sheets to your entry if needed.
Mail your entry form and other materials to Astronomy Day Coordinator Gary Tomlinson at the address noted above. Include a self-addressed, legal-size, stamped envelope if you would like to receive a written report about the award winners.
Good luck! And if you don't win this year, please try again next year.