What's a music-loving urban stargazer to do to celebrate astronomy? Obviously, show the skies to people out for a show at their favorite music pub! I've been enjoying local and touring acts at Woodlands Tavern in Columbus, Ohio for almost two years. A regular at Open Mic Wednesdays, I talk about my stargazing hobby — a lot. Earlier this year, a local musician/promoter suggested I set up on Woodlands patio, with a big gas firepit between numerous sodium-vapor streetlights. At the next Open Mic, I did.
Anyone was invited to look. Tripod-mounted 20x80 astro-binoculars drew a crowd that first night. With greater-than-expected response, I set up an red 8" Newtonian on a Dobsonian mount the next time out — some mistook it for a cannon. More people came; waiting lines formed. The moon fascinated everyone, and Saturn had patrons dragging friends outside for a look. Many seemed to think the ringed planet was a bar trick, since it looked so good. We also viewed the Orion Nebula, Orion's Sword, Pleiades, Hyades, M13 and the Beehive.
Better, I found most patrons could easily be taught to aim the scopes. I could sit back and watch the fun as people observed, head in for pinball, or get another beverage and a music fix. Everyone is afraid to touch the scope at first. If I have a mission besides fun looking at bright celestial targets, it's to get folks over scope-phobia, and let them run the scope! Adding an H-alpha scope for daytime solar viewing ramped up interest even more.
I started calling it "Barstronomy, and began tweeting, Facebooking and email-listing as "Duke Skygawker" to let astro-fans know when I'd be set up. I registered the web domains for Barstronomy (Google it!) and put up a website. I trademarked a logo and started giving away Barstronomy t-shirts. Unsolicited Facebook testimonials like "Barstronomy is stellar!" started appearing. Stepping it up, I brought in a solar telescope and showed prominences flaring off the sun. Willie Nelson's son Lukas, in for a show, loved it and tweeted to all his fans to follow @Barstronomy. Local media coverage led to another jump in interest, and official status as part of Woodlands Tavern?s ongoing attractions. I set up every chance I get.
If a cold beverage and a look through the scope help you think about your place in the universe or debate cosmology with your fellow pub-goers, it's more entertaining for everyone. That makes every day Astronomy Day, every week Astronomy Week.
Barstronomy is free, fun, and a universal exclusive as far as modern science can determine. Here's how to know when Barstronomy will set up next:
Follow @Barstronomy on Twitter
Friend "Duke Skygawker" on Facebook
Send an email to email@example.com