So, through my involvement with Scouts I've been able to advertise the International Year of Astronomy to kids all around WA. The (now ex-) Chief Commissioner, Sue Mitchell, gave me a grant to purchase 2000 IYA-branded planispheres which I've been sending out to Scout Troops around the state, and last week the new Chief, Peter Walton, asked if I'd write something for the monthly Branch newsletter for February. Here is what I wrote.
"2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating 400 years since the invention of the telescope and Galileo's first observations of the heavens. Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences going back thousands of years in human history, but Galileo's observations changed our view of the Universe forever. Astronomy has come a long way in the last 400 years with many exciting discoveries, many new technologies and even giant telescopes in space. During this year of celebration there are many exciting astronomy-themed events happening all around the state, many of them are suitable for Scouts. Scouts also has planispheres available for Scout groups - these are handy card gadgets which show you the sky on any night of the year and are a great way to get started observing the stars.
Right now there is a comet visible in the skies after sunset. Comet Lulin is currently in the constellation Virgo and may be visible with the naked eye if you are lucky enough to live somewhere with no light pollution (it will look like a small fuzzy patch). It should be an easy object to find with binoculars however, even from the middle of Perth! Comet Lulin should be visible throughout March, although it will fade as the month goes on and it moves further from the Sun. There are planets to see as well (you can tell a planet from a star because planets don't twinkle). Venus will be easy to spot low in the West after sunset during the fist half of March, and Saturn will be visible in the East in the evenings, by the end of March it will be visible all night. With binoculars you may be able to spot Saturn's rings and one or two of it's moons. Full Moon occurs on March 11th and is always a spectacular object with binoculars. The best time to look is a couple of days either side of Full Moon when the edge of the shadow picks out many spectacular craters and mountains."
That should go out in the newsletter at the start of March.
There was another development this week. The WA Scouts Adventurous Activities team owns a portable climbing wall and it's time for a re-paint, and Sue had the great idea of using an astronomy theme! So they're going to paint it a dark blue, stick on some stars in the shape of a few constellations (with a few suggestions from me) and put a big copy of the IYA logo at the top! It should look awesome.
There are several events shaping up for the 100 Hours of Astronomy weekend as well, but that's another story.