Mike Simmons


Thousands of lights twinkled, not above me but below, as I descended into Los Angeles on April 4 of last year. The 24-hour Global Star Party of IYA2009's 100 Hours of Astronomy Cornerstone Project was underway.  As many as a million people viewed Saturn's rings and the Moon's craters through telescopes worldwide.  But another form of energy was also being focused that night -  the energy of tens of thousands of amateur astronomers around the world working together as darkness circled the Earth.

I was missing the action, returning from 100HA's opening ceremony at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia after a one-day flight delay. I knew they were all down there on street corners, in parks, at local observatories, wherever there were people. I reflected on what was taking place as I glided into LAX. For four days the public had been engaged like never before, beginning online and ending with telescopes on the streets. But soon it would be over.

The excitement and energy of that night needed to be captured, harnessed, focused anew after IYA2009. Astronomers Without Borders' (AWB) mission was to connect people worldwide through a common, even universal, passion for astronomy. The 24-hour Global Star Party did that, linking us through this global event. We knew we had to follow it up this April, but repeating what had already been done seemed inadequate.

The idea of a full month of activities came from one of the most involved organizers of 100 Hours of Astronomy. Why retain the limitations of that brief event? Why not encourage all activities, on any date throughout the month? Events that were clouded out could be rescheduled. New event ideas could be duplicated elsewhere before the month ended. Less stress, more opportunities. But most importantly, new ideas and new programs could be nurtured. Programs that would continue within AWB's framework for the rest of the year and beyond. We'd engage the astronomy community, focus its energy and guide it forward. And keep it going.

GAM 2010 provided a global stage for established programs and a framework for partnerships.  Some well established programs took on larger projects for GAM, like the popular StarPeace project's 30 Days of StarPeace with events circling the Earth. Online observing programs engaged people as never before, with eight programs reaching from the Sun's planets to an unseen world passing in front of its distant star, and beyond to the galaxies.  One Star at a Time, a new AWB long-term initiative to engage and empower people worldwide in the fight against light pollution, got its start during GAM 2010.  All these and more will continue and grow, and shine again next April in GAM 2011.

New programs and new partnerships are being developed as an outgrowth of GAM as well, and this is GAM's real goal - sustainable programs that will continue and grow. Some exciting developments will be announced before long. And it will all be based on AWB's new social media web site, a proper home for AWB's growing global community, which should launch shortly after this blog is published.

Astronomers Without Borders offers astronomy enthusiasts worldwide a place to meet and share their passion.  100 Hours of Astronomy showed how vast that community is and, more importantly, what it can accomplish.  GAM 2010 recaptured and refocused that energy in AWB. But this is just the beginning. The community will continue to grow and new programs will continue to take shape.  Just imagine what we'll accomplish together in GAM 2011.


    You need to be logged in to leave a comment

    About Me

    I'm president of Astronomers Without Borders.


    Location:Calabasas, CA
    United States of America (the)