Archive for astronomers without borders

30 Nights of StarPeace in NZ

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , , , on May 2, 2011 by astronomymike

New Zealand was one of the last countries in the world this year to hold its StarPeace event, and what a night we had!!!

Members of the Levin Stargazers, Sharing Space and StarWalker set up 2 telescopes, cameras and a webcast laptop right in the heart of the busiest downtown area of our capital city, Wellington, and wowed the crowds with spectacular views of Saturn. It was an utterly incredible night, and one I will personally never forget. There’s nothing like a crowd to draw a bigger crowd, and we had a constant stream of people lining up to have a look and, by the end of the night, around 500 people had stopped for a chat and a view of what is undoubtedly the public’s favorite planet.

The reactions and comments from people were priceless, and are the main reason why we keep doing what we are doing. The comments ranged from the simple “Wow!” to “Oh my God! Are you serious?!!!” and many other, sometimes expletive-laden, reactions. I lost count of the number of people who thought we were tricking them by sticking a photo in the eyepiece! Some couldn’t believe that we would just bring our scopes into town for people to look through for FREE!!! But every one of them was very grateful that we did, and I even had one man comment that “this alone made my trip into the city worthwhile!”. One of the nearby cafe’s even brought us out free drinks of hot chocolate for our efforts, which was very much appreciated!

We were kept busy on the telescopes all night, but did manage to get a few words in with China and Sri Lanka (Thilina!!!) via webcast. When the lines of people waiting started to get smaller, in true John Dobson style we would just call people over as they were passing by, and every one of them left with a smile on their face.

Many thanks to Paul Moss, Maria Heidemann (the StarWalker team) and Ray for the photos, webcast and video (see below). The other members of our team included Mike White (me), Mike Stapel and Ron Fisher. Looking forward to our next guerilla astronomy mission!

International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) is Coming!

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , , , , on August 7, 2010 by astronomymike

InOMN Logo

Mark your calendars folks, September 18 is International Observe the Moon Night!

Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) is partnering with NASA missions and centers, along with other institutions, to bring the excitement of observing and learning about Earth’s closest neighbor in space to the worldwide public.

Join professional and amateur astronomers, astronomy clubs, planetariums, science centers and astronomy enthusiasts around the world in celebrating our closest celestial companion, the Moon. If you belong to an astronomy club or society, start planning your events now and be a part of something very special! Most of us take the Moon for granted, I mean we see it almost every night (or day) don’t we? But the fact is that the Moon has special significance in almost every culture and society around the world, and not only that, but to see the surface of the Moon through a telescope is truly breathtaking!

For more information, resources and to register your InOMN events, visit

So let’s get involved and get the world looking up again!

Clear skies!

Global Astronomy Month is coming!

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , , , , on March 12, 2010 by astronomymike
Global Astronomy Month logo

Global Astronomy Month logo

It’s nearly here people! April is Global Astronomy Month and it’s rolling around faster than you can say “Global Astronomy Month”!

Amateur astronomers, societies and groups worldwide are hard at work to bring some exciting astronomy events to a place near you, and the Astronomers Without Borders global team have been busy preparing global events that anyone from around the world can participate in, even some that you can do from home without a telescope! It’s going to be an action-packed month, but how can you be a part of all the excitement?

Firstly, keep an eye on your local newspapers and one ear on the radio for announcements on events that are being organised in your area. If you see or hear nothing, contact an astronomy club or group in your area to find out what they are doing for Global Astronomy Month. Secondly, you can search for events in your area on the Find Events webpage or check out what the Astronomers Without Borders team have prepared for you on the Global Programs webpage.

Some of the online global events on offer include:-

  • Living Legend Series – online live interviews with some of the most influential astronomers of our time.
  • Is Anybody Out There? – watch a planet outside our solar system dim the light of its parent star!
  • Write Your Name in the Sky! – hunt for asteroids in real time online and you might even get to name your own discovery!

If you are already an amateur astronomer or belong to an astronomy group/club and have not planned anything yet for Global Astronomy Month, it’s not too late!!! Have a look at the Program Ideas webpage and get creative! When you have decided on your events, register them online on the Register Events webpage, so everyone will know about it and people in your area can find it.

C’mon everyone, let’s be a part of something really big and very, very special!

Clear skies to all!
– Mike

One Sky, One People (Part 2)

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by astronomymike


Well, last night was the second part of the two-part Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) project – Big Dipper to Southern Cross (you can read about Part One here), and it started at 1:30am NZ local time. I think I finally fell into bed at about 4am, but it was well worth the lack of beauty sleep (although my wife may disagree…I probably need as much as I can get!). This was the southern hemisphere event (my neck of the woods, so to speak), so I could hardly bail out early could I?!!! 🙂

Unlike the northern hemisphere event, the primary video server was up and running, which was thankfully one less drama for the team to have to deal with. Terry Bridges was the host astronomer/telescope operator and was operating the GRAS telescope in South Australia from Canada, whilst Gianluca Masi from Italy worked frantically in the background to download the telescope images, process them and post them onto the Virtual Telescope website for all participants to see. Quite mind-boggling the technology that must be involved in making all this happen, and the end result was a credit to all involved.

Live chat was working overtime and, as with the northern hemisphere event, everyone was made to feel welcome. What a fantastic display of ‘togetherness’ this whole event has been! True allegiance to the AWB catchphrase ‘One People, One Sky’. Here’s a prime example of it in action – when I logged into the live chat and introduced myself as being from Levin, NZ, Terry instantly welcomed me via the video feed and commented on our Levin StarGazers award for the IYA2009 100 Hours of Astronomy event we held back in April. How wonderful to be recognised from the other side of the world! I was blown away by that, as I had never met Terry before last night.

Terry was kept busy selecting targets and setting up the telescope remotely to take images, as well as keeping an eye on the live chat. Some of the wonderful objects imaged live last night were 47 Tuc (a fantastic southern hemisphere globular cluster), the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud and M42 (Orion Nebula) to name a few, and Gianluca was doing a fantastic job in the background getting the images processed and onto the Virtual Telescope website.

This was truly a fantastic worldwide event and I have made several new friends simply by joining in and participating. My hat is off to all involved in setting up and running the event – Thilina Heenatigala, Gianluca Masi, Terry Bridges and many others…you should be justifiably proud of what you have achieved!!! My sincerest thanks for inviting me to join you.

Incidentally, if you want to rent one of the GRAS remote telescopes for free to try your hand at imaging, there is a fantastic limited-time offer of free credit available through Astronomy.FM! Check it out.

Clear skies!
– Mike

One Sky, One People

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , on January 9, 2010 by astronomymike

In my News Flash post a couple of days ago, I told you of an upcoming 2-day event from the Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) project – Big Dipper to Southern Cross. The event allows people from both hemispheres to view the night sky from a telescope hosted in the opposite hemisphere and interact via live chat with people from all over the world.

I have just finished participating in the first half of the event, hosted in the northern hemisphere by the Bellatrix Observatory in Italy (via Virtual Telescope). Despite a few inital ‘problems’ (such as the planned video server crashing at the last minute and requiring a quick change to UStream, and clouds & rain over the observatory), the AWB/Virtual Telescope team coped extremely well with getting the show back on the road very quickly. Unfortunately, there is nothing anyone can do about changing the weather, so the host astronomer/telescope operator (Gianluca Masi) put ‘Plan B’ into action and presented previously-taken images from the northern hemisphere.

According to Gianluca at the end of his 2 hour presentation, there were about 3000 unique visits to the broadcast over the whole period, which is highly satisfying for all involved. The ‘live chat’ function was well-used and around 200 people were logged on for most of the event. There was a real feeling of friendliness and sharing during the chat, and it was obvious there were seasoned astronomers as well as ‘newbies’ present, but no-one was made to feel stupid or that their questions were irrelevant. The touchy subject of which OS is best did raise its head when I announced to the group that my XP laptop had ‘blue-screened’ and I was now using my PC instead, but it was all in jest and good-natured ribbing :).

There were many beautiful images presented by Gianluca along with an explanation of each one and a planetarium software view (The Sky 6?) of its location in the sky. All-in-all it was a wonderful experience, and I am thoroughly looking forward to the second half of the event, which is being hosted by the GRAS Remote Telescope in Southern Australia at 1230 UT (Universal Time) on Sunday Jan 10. In case you don’t know, ‘Universal Time’ is effectively the same thing as ‘GMT’, so you should be able to work out for yourselves what your local time will be for the event. Here in NZ it will be 1:30am Monday morning.

I encourage anyone reading this to join the event and have a look at what our southern hemisphere night skies have to offer! Simply go to at the date and time above to join in the fun!

Clear skies!
– Mike

News Flash!

Posted in News & Events with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2010 by astronomymike

The AWB Remote Observing project has announced “Big Dipper to Southern Cross”, a two-night event on 8 and 10 January 2010 bringing the north and south hemispheres together to make “one sky, one people.” Telescopes in each hemisphere will highlight the beauties of their night sky, giving those in the opposite hemisphere an opportunity to enjoy them as well. Chat will be available between participants and with the telescope operator. Join in with others from around the world or just watch.

Northern Hemisphere – Virtual Telescope (Italy)

Virtual Telescope from Italy will broadcast images and narrative live, allowing people around the world to share in viewing and imaging the best northern celestial objects.

Date – Friday 8th of January 2010

Time – 20:00 UT – 22:00 UT

Southern Hemisphere – GRAS (Australia)

The brilliance and special objects of the southern sky will be captured by the GRAS Remote Telescope in Southern Australia.

Date – Sunday 10th of January 2010

Time – 12:30UT – 14:30 UT

For more information see the Big Dipper to Southern Cross event page.