The Many Domains of Astronomy Education: It's All A Question of Partnerships
My task in this brief review is to set the scene for the session on education that will follow today; and perhaps to ask a few disturbing questions that our discussion can address here, at other education sessions, and in the work we continue to do.
It is appropriate that this symposium on professional and amateur partnerships is taking place in part under the aegis of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP}. The ASP was founded in 1889 by Edward Holden, the first
director of the Lick Observatory (near San Francisco) and Charles Burckhalter, an Oakland school teacher and amateur astronomer. The occasion was a total eclipse of the Sun, visible from Northern California on January 1, 1889, which
created tremendous public interest. With very few professional astronomers in Northern California at the time, Holden and Burckhalter faced a formidable challenge in trying to observe and photograph the eclipse for scientific purposes, and yet to be available for the press and the public at the same time.
They hit upon the idea of enlisting the relatively new Pacific Coast Amateur Photographic Association, a group of amateur photography enthusiasts, to help them in both endeavors (Bracher 1989). The cooperation between professionals and amateurs before and during the eclipse was so successful, that Holden then thought it might be useful to form a permanent organization that would foster
continuing exchanges and partnerships among scientists, amateurs, and educators - and by March of 1889 the Astronomical Society of the Pacific was born.
While today the ASP has grown to be the largest general astronomy organization in the world (with members in every state of the U.S. and over 60 other countries), that early spirit of cooperation among the three groups still guides
many of the Society's activities today - including this symposium, which has long been a dream of the most recent ASP President, John Percy.
In this review, I want to focus on partnerships for education in the same spirit that the ASP has done its work for over 110 years - how can professional and amateur astronomers work together with teachers, youth groups, science centers, and the public to enhance science education?
Type of Publication
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Amateur-Professional Partnerships in Astronomy
Conference Proceeding Type
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America