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Astronomy names 2007 "Out-of-this-world" Award winner

Among 41 entries, one astronomical society's commitment to excellence in astronomy outreach brings accolades.
Astronomy Out-of-this-World 2007 Award
WAUKESHA, WI — Aldrich Astronomical Society of Worcester, Massachusetts, is the winner of Astronomy magazine's 2007 "Out-of-this-world" outreach award. Astronomy chose Aldrich from among 41 entries received from all over the United States and from as far away as Romania.

"Astronomy is proud to support the community with this unique award, and the numerous, energetic activities of the Aldrich Astronomical Society make it a highly deserving winner for 2007. Congratulations to all the society members for all they do, and for all they plan to do," says Astronomy Editor David J. Eicher. Astronomy editors selected Aldrich based on the group's diverse offering of astronomy outreach activities and a detailed plan for spending the $2,500 award.

What makes Aldrich's astronomy outreach program sizzle is the society's clear vision of its role in the community. Since 1932, its mission has been "to educate people of all ages on the wonders of the night sky," says Aldrich Astronomical Society President Jim Zebrowski. And the group takes its mission seriously.

Not only does Aldrich sponsor public observing sessions, planetarium shows, and mirror-grinding activities, but society members also take its educational program on the road. Members give presentations to community groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. They visit libraries, local K-12 schools, colleges, and senior centers. They also offer more than 30 different PowerPoint and slide-show presentations on a variety of astronomy topics to the public.

But that's not all. Aldrich offers astronomy courses through local colleges. The society's workshops show teachers how to construct engaging lesson plans and demonstrate astronomical concepts to their students. The group is also instrumental in bringing Moon rocks, meteorites, and space suits to classrooms and has helped create a Mars habitat. Four of Aldrich's members are NASA/JPL-trained Solar System Ambassadors.

A stellar offering of programs, passionate volunteers, a commitment to mentoring, and a clear plan for the future help Aldrich Astronomical Society successfully carry out its mission. When asked to give advice to societies striving for excellence in astronomy outreach, Zebrowski responds, "If any club is to achieve success, it must have a vibrant and growing membership that feels the same passion you felt when you joined the society." And, he adds, Aldrich's achievements are due in part to its "ability to attract younger members and their families, [people] who really want to learn more about the night sky and share their interests with others."

Winning Astronomy's "Out-of-this-world" contest, and its $2,500 prize, will help Aldrich build on its success. Zebrowski says Aldrich will use the funds to purchase equipment and books and develop demonstration toolkits. The group plans on purchasing a 6-inch reflecting telescope; a solar telescope for viewing features on the Sun; four binoculars, two 10x50 and two 8x42; two eyepieces with Moon filters; 75 star and planet locators; and a green laser pointer. Aldrich also plans to procure age-appropriate space and astronomy books and magazines and expand its Adopt a Library program.

The society will use the remaining funds to develop demonstration toolkits educators will use in the classroom. Aldrich's goal is to create a learning cycle that spans the entire academic year. "More importantly," Zebrowski says, "we hope this recognition will also encourage other astronomy groups to see the value in working in their communities and to expand their efforts to promote stargazing to the public."

To learn more about Aldrich Astronomical society and its award-winning public outreach program, visit the group's web site, Aldrichastro.org.

With so many impressive outreach programs, it wasn't easy for Astronomy to choose a winner. Here are the runners-up.

Baraket Observatory
Macabim, Israel
http://www.bareket-astro.com/

Bruce County Astronomical Society
Owen Sound, Ontario
http://www.geocities.com/bcastronomy/index.htm

Custer Institute and Observatory
Southold, New York
http://www.custerobservatory.org/

UW Space Place
Madison, Wisconsin
http://www.spaceplace.wisc.edu/

Von Braun Astronomical Society
Huntsville, Alabama
http://www.vbas.org/
To learn more about all the entrants in this year's Out-of-this-world Award please visit their web sites, listed below.

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston
Lexington, Massachusetts
http://atmob.org/

Astronomical Society of Kansas City
Leawood, Kansas
http://askc.org/index.htm

Astronomical Society of New Haven
Bethany, Connecticut
http://asnh.org/

Astronomical Society of Southern New England
Taunton, Massachusetts
http://www.assne.org/

Barnard Astronomical Society
Hixson, Tennessee
http://bas.chattanooga.net/

Bishop Museum
Honolulu, Hawaii
http://bishopmuseum.org/

Carolina Skies Astronomy Club
Greenville, North Carolina
http://www.homestead.com/carolinaskies/

Challenger Learning Center of Maine
Bangor, Maine
http://www.clcofme.org/

Chester County Astronomical Society
West Chester, Pennsylvania
http://ccas.us/

Colorado River Astronomy Club
Blythe, California
http://home.earthlink.net/~astroclub/

East Valley Astronomy Club
Gilbert, Arizona
http://www.eastvalleyastronomy.org/

Hamilton Amateur Astronomers
Dundas, Ontario, Canada
http://amateurastronomy.org/

Hardin-Simmons University
Abilene, Texas
http://www.hsutx.edu/main.php

Harford County Astronomical Society
Bel Air, Maryland
http://www.harfordastro.org/mainmenu_page/mainmenu_page.html

John J. McCarthy Observatory
New Milford, Connecticut
http://www.mccarthyobservatory.org/

Las Vegas Astronomical Society
Las Vegas, Nevada
http://lvastronomy.com/

Lenape Valley Regional High School Planetarium
Stanhope, New Jersey
http://lvhs.org/webfiles/index.html

Louisville Astronomical Society
Louisville, Kentucky
http://louisville-astro.org/

Lunar and Planetary Institute
Houston, Texas
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/

Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Societies
Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom
http://sherwood-observatory.org.uk/

Minnesota Astronomical Society
Little Canada, Minnesota
http://www.mnastro.org/

New Jersey 4-H Youth Development Program
Bridgewater, New Jersey
http://www.nj4h.rutgers.edu/default.asp

Phoenix Astronomical Society
Black Canyon City, Arizona
http://pasaz.org/

Plymouth Star Gazers and Rustic Skies
Cascade, Wisconsin
http://rusticskies.com/

Pomona Valley Amateur Astronomy
Upland, California
http://www.pvaa.us/

Prescott Astronomy Club
Prescott, Arizona
http://www.prescottastronomyclub.org/

Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy
Bucharest, Romania
http://www.sarm.ro/newsite/index.php (Romanian)

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
http://ocrasc.ca/

South Jersey Astronomy Club
Marmora, New Jersey
http://members.aol.com/sjastroc/

Space Science for Schools, Inc.
Incline Village, Nevada
http://ss4s.org/

Stanford Astronomical Society
Stanford, California
http://www.stanford.edu/group/astronomy/

Starsplitters of Wyalusing
Bagley, Wisconsin
http://www.wyalusing.org/starsplit.htm

Stonebelt Stargazers
Springville, Indiana
http://www.mainbyte.com/stargazers/

Valley of the Moon Observatory Association
Santa Rosa, California
http://www.vmoa.kenwood.ca.us/

Westminster Astronomical Society, Inc.
Westminster, Maryland
http://westminsterastro.org/
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