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Astronomy recognizes outstanding public programming

The Cincinnati Observatory Center wins Astronomy magazine's annual Out-of-this-World Award and the $2,500 prize. Nearly 40 clubs from around the country, and two from outside the United States, submitted summaries of their outreach programs.
Cincinnati Observatory Center
Astronomy magazine selected the Cincinnati Observatory Center as the winner of the 2008 Out-of-this-World Award for astronomy programming.
Out of this world Award
October 20, 2008
Astronomy magazine selected the Cincinnati Observatory Center's (COC) as the winner of the 2008 Out-of-this-World Award for outstanding programming.

COC separated itself from the pack with its "40 Telescopes" program. The organization plans to present forty 8-inch Dobsonian telescopes to local science teachers and high school students. To receive a telescope, a teacher or student must submit an essay about how the telescope will be used, go through at least two training sessions with COC staff, and participate in at least two star parties.

"Winning this award," COC Outreach Astronomer Dean Regas said, "puts us well on the road to achieving our goal — getting telescopes to those that will not only use them, but will also conduct outreach themselves."

"Astronomy magazine will have helped place 10 superb telescopes with deserving and budding astronomers."

Astronomy's Out-of-this-world Award focuses on ongoing programs — not one specific event — by an educational or civic organization, according to Editor David J. Eicher. The award recognizes a group's sustained efforts to involve its local community in the science and hobby of astronomy. COC is the third winner since the award debuted in 2006. The 2007 award went to the Aldrich Astronomical Society in Winchendon, Massachusetts. In 2006, Astronomy's editors selected Celestial North, Inc., an astronomy club in Freeland, Washington, to win the inaugural award.

COC's 40 Telescopes program is just one example of the center's commitment to outreach. The observatory employs one teacher who gives up to 35 presentations a month to students and teachers. More than 125 active volunteers conduct an additional 40 presentations per month. As Dean Regas, the observatory's Outreach Astronomer, explained in the submission, "Volunteers, professional, and amateur astronomers contributed 5,446 hours of service in 2007." Let's see that's 5,446 divided by 365...that's nearly 15 hours of outreach a day!!

Here are a few other highlights from COC's list of outreach programs:
  • Teacher workshops, including Starry Night training
  • Observatory University is an eight-session continuing-education course for adults
  • "Student astronomers" lets local students e-mail the observatory with questions
  • For-credit summer workshops for teachers through Xavier University

"As is the case every year, it was a difficult decision," says Eicher. "There's so much fantastic outreach going on throughout the country. Congratulations to all who entered, and thanks to everyone who dedicates time and energy to promote the hobby and science of astronomy."

Visit Astronomy.com/blog to learn more about other notable entries.
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