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Astronomy announces 2012 Out-of-this-world Award winner

For its Library Telescope Program, the New Hampshire Astronomical Society wins Astronomy’s annual award honoring astronomy outreach programs.
Out-Of-This-World2012_color
NHAS-LTP_01
Volunteer members of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society man a modification assembly line to make the Orion Starblast reflector used for the Library Telescope Program tamper-proof and novice friendly. Pictured left to right are: Ted Blank, NHAS board member; April South, NHAS volunteer; and Herb Bubert, NHAS member and chair of the society's astrophotography committee. // Tom Cocchiaro, NHAS
NHAS-LTP_02
D. Scott Campbell, Langdon Library director in Newington, New Hampshire, shows off his new prized offering. Some library patrons wait weeks on the waiting list before being able to check out the scope. To alleviate wait times, some libraries have purchased additional units. // NHAS

Astronomy magazine has chosen the New Hampshire Astronomical Society (NHAS) as the winner of its 2012 Out-of-this-world Award for outstanding public programming. The NHAS’ many accomplishments helped it stand out from the competition. But the most notable was its Library Telescope Program.

For more than four years now, the NHAS has been sharing the wonders of the universe with the public through the placement of telescopes at libraries throughout New England. The goal is to help foster scientific literacy, stimulate an interest in astronomy, and provide people who have never looked through a telescope the chance to experience the excitement that comes from discovery.

Since its modest beginnings, the Library Telescope Program has placed scopes at more than 60 libraries in New Hampshire. Included are instructions and accessories custom made to insure a successful night of observing, even for those who know absolutely nothing about astronomy.

“I have worked with visionaries for all of my professional career, and nothing is more gratifying than to see a vision come to life,” says NHAS President Richard R. DeMidio. “It has been amazing to watch an idea born in the mind of a single individual catch fire and spread across the globe exposing countless people to the wonders of the universe.  It is hard to choose words of thanks that effectively convey our appreciation for the generosity we have received from the astronomy community. On behalf of all of NHAS, we offer our sincere gratitude to Astronomy magazine for this award. We thank all of those involved for making the LTP program a resounding success, from members of our organization to supporters in our extended astronomy family and those library directors who have embraced and implemented the program for their own communities.”

And Marc Stowbridge, NHAS Library Telescope Creator, adds, “We are constantly amazed at how our Library Telescope Program has taken hold across the country and across the world, and at the generosity of those in the astronomy community who have endorsed and supported the program — in particular Craig Weatherwax at Oceanside Photo and Telescope, the folks at Orion Telescopes and Binoculars, and the Astronomy Foundation. We are also thrilled that Astronomy magazine has chosen to recognize our efforts with its Out-of-this-world Award, and we promise to put it to good use in our quest to continually expand our outreach efforts. On behalf of everyone associated with the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, thank you for this prestigious honor and gift.”

The NHAS plans to use its $2,500 Out-of-this-world Award prize money to increase the number of libraries that offer telescopes for checkout, particularly in rural locations where budgets run at the razor’s edge.

The NHAS is the seventh winner since the award debuted in 2006. Last year’s award went to the The Albuquerque Astronomical Society, the previous year’s award went to the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit in California, and the 2009 award went to the Amateur Observers’ Society of New York. The winner receives $2,500 from Astronomy magazine.

This year, more than 20 groups entered from almost a dozen U.S. states and four other countries.

“This was another great year of astronomy club submissions, and we had a hard time picking a winner,” says David J. Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine. “So much wonderful outreach takes place all over the country and the world that it’s still hard to pick just one winner. Each of the entrants deserves congratulations for their fantastic efforts, and we thank them for doing so much to promote the hobby and science of astronomy.”

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