Astronomy Outreach Foundation
Over the past several years, many amateur astronomers have noticed a decline in the number of people participating in the hobby of stargazing. While this decline is not caused by a lack of interest in space, it is more of a general lack of understanding about how to get involved in amateur astronomy. With so many immediate-gratification entertainment options available to folks through their TV, computer, or hand-held device, it can easily be argued that the traditional approach of learning the night sky through observation is losing relevance among younger people. New creative approaches and a dedicated outreach effort are required in order to educate the next generation about space science. The Astronomy Outreach Foundation (AOF) was recently formed to provide an understanding of our hobby to a wider audience, and to stimulate greater public interest in astronomy.
We recently had an opportunity to converse with AOF Board member Vic Maris, here's what he had to say:
- What's the purpose of the AOF?
- Interest in science is waning. The Astronomy Outreach Foundation (AOF) is working to get a new generation excited about amateur astronomy and to realize there is more to life than mere entertainment. A balance of entertainment and intellectual engagement is crucial and many younger people miss the opportunity to enrich their lives as these scientific and outdoor opportunities are largely unknown. We are striving to assist everyone in becoming more engaged in activities that allow them to learn more about the universe.
- How does the AOF work?
- AOF is a non-profit membership organization comprised of individual amateur astronomers, scientists, astronomy clubs, businesses, schools, astronomy related publications, and allied organizations. Individuals may join for free and start getting involved. We provide information in print, on our website, and take part in many public events in an effort to get more people involved. The AOF plans to become heavily involved in social networking, developing new educational video programs, and hosting events with activities designed for young people.
- What can people do to help increase awareness about the AOF and astronomy in general?
- Get involved. Word of mouth promotion and discussion of the AOF among amateur astronomers will add to our movement. Certainly donations will help and are sincerely appreciated. But we also need active volunteers to help us in our outreach efforts as well as operating the Foundation. There are many great minds in astronomy. Working together we will accomplish much more than we can working independently.
- Do you have any advice regarding how parents can get their family involved in appreciating the night sky?
- Getting young people involved in astronomy means promoting the sense of wonder that so many observers experience while peering in an eyepiece. It is far easier to inspire young minds away from city lights where one can see the Milky Way. Binoculars and a small telescope will show more but be sure you know how to use them. Preparing for a fun and engaging family outing means being ready, being familiar with your equipment, and creating a sense of wonder and excitement among younger observers to help put what they're viewing and experiencing into proper context. While showing them things in the sky ask questions about what they think about them. What they have to teach you remains far more significant than anything you have to teach them. Savor the experience and remember - they grow up far too fast. This may be one of those experiences they remember for life.
How can someone get involved?
Go to our website www.astronomyoutreachfoundation.org and sign up as a new member.
Orion Telescopes and Binoculars is proud to be a founding member and sponsor of AOF.