Astronomy magazine has chosen the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit (SBAU) as the winner of the 2010 Out-of-this-world Award for outstanding programming.
SBAU separated itself from the pack with its extensive, almost prolific outreach programs, which provided more than 16,000 individuals personal access to telescopes, information, and friendly helpful people. Whether through its monthly public star parties, regular visits to schools, or even assisting fledgling astronomy clubs, the group has gone out of its way to inspire everyone with the majesty and promise of the cosmos.
Well, not quite everyone: SBAU plans to use the money on its “You Can See Too” (UC2) program, which caters specifically to the wheelchair-bound segment of the populace. Construction has already begun on a custom-designed UC2 scope, featuring a portable hydraulic lift system, so the SBAU can use it not only at public star parties, but also on trips to hospitals and nursing homes as well. Thanks to the $2,500 from Astronomy magazine, to use toward its outreach activities, SBAU can continue to reach out to all members of the public, leading ever more people to fall in love with the sky.
Work on the scope is going well thanks to the group’s members, according to SBAU President Ruben Gutierrez. “We have some great people here,” he says, “and we’ve been very well received. It really is a cool club.”
SBAU is lucky enough to have members with expertise in design and construction, which helped minimize the UC2 project’s cost. The telescope itself had already been procured, but now the group can finish building the mount itself — including the hydraulic lift, accessories, and proper signage according to California code. The design specs and blueprints sent as part of the award application helped show how serious SBAU is about continuing its extensive tradition of providing outreach to everyone.
Astronomy’s Out-of-this-world Award rewards ongoing programs sponsored by an educational or civic organization. The award recognizes a group’s sustained efforts to involve its local community in the science and hobby of astronomy. SBAU is the fifth winner since the award debuted in 2006. Last year’s award went to the Amateur Observers’ Society of New York, the previous year’s award went to the Cincinnati Observatory Center, and 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. The winner receives $2,500 from Astronomy magazine. This year, more than 30 groups entered, from almost two dozen states and six countries.
“As usual, we struggled to choose the winner this year,” says David J. Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine. “So much great outreach happens all over this country — all over the world, in fact. Each of the groups and clubs who entered deserves congratulations for their efforts, and we thank them for doing so much to promote the hobby and science of astronomy.”