Do you enjoy staring up at the stars? Have you ever marveled at the wonders of space and yearned to know more? If so, then there’s a special day on the calendar when you can learn all there is to know about outer space and celestial objects.
This unique “holiday” happens twice a year, giving people the chance to use magnificent telescopes and connect with members of the scientific community. Here’s everything you need to know about the holiday and how you can get it on the action.
What Is Astronomy Day?
Astronomy Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated twice each year. The first occurrence takes place in Spring, and the second in Fall. Both take place the closest to the first quarter moon during those times.
The idea behind the holiday is to celebrate astronomy and all of the contributions it has made to society. At the same time, it is meant to bring people together and foster a love for the stars and outer space in general. Professionals and groups that have made significant contributions are often revered during this time as well.
Thousands of individuals who have never looked through a telescope get the chance to do so via science museums, observatories, laboratories, and more. These locations host special events designed to educate and enthrall the masses. You can have your questions answered by professionals as well as just enjoy some one of a kind stargazing on this particular day.
How and When Did It Start?
The holiday started as a grassroots movement in 1973 and was created by the then president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California, Doug Berner. He hoped to spur the public’s interest in the field of astronomy and give citizens the chance to use specialized equipment to view the stars at various facilities.
Initially, Astronomy Day only took place in the spring. This was changed in 2007 to include the Fall holiday as well to increase people’s chances of participating.
Astronomy itself, however, was nothing new in the 1970s. It is one of the oldest natural sciences in existence, having its roots in some of the earliest religious and mythological beliefs. For thousands of years, astronomy and astrology were actually one in the same.
People around the globe relied on these practices to make sense of events like eclipses and meteor showers, as well as understand other non-Earthly phenomena like planets and stars. Ancient civilizations used it as a calendar to grow crops, sailors relied on it for navigation, and others say it as a way to connect with their deities.
At the turn of the 17th century, astronomy separated itself from astrology as a methodical and scientific medium. Astrology retained the mythological aspects of their earlier union. The new goal was to use modern science to truly understand how celestial objects and events worked, as well as what that might tell us about our planet.
The public wasn’t entirely aware of that change in direction, however, which is part of what made and continues to make Astronomy Day such a success. The holiday gave everyone a chance to understand the universe better, what astronomers do, and how it can benefit their everyday lives. While information is more readily available today, it’s still magical to hear about new discoveries or view celestial objects through a powerful microscope.
When Does Astronomy Day Take Place?
There are two times per year when Astronomy Day takes place. The first is on the Saturday closest to the first quarter moon in April or May, and the second is the same but for September and October.
No one knows for sure why Doug Berner chose the first quarter moon for the event, but many believe it is because of the profound image that phase creates when looked at through a telescope. It resembles the discoveries made through astronomy on the illuminated side, as well as the vast unknown of space on the dark side.
How Can You Celebrate?
Most individuals celebrate the day by gazing at the night sky through a telescope or a pair of high-powered binoculars. This gives parents a chance to connect with their children while educating them about the universe and also happens to make for an excellent date night.
While you can indeed celebrate the holiday at home, there are numerous other ways to take part in Astronomy Day. A lot of people feel a little self-conscious about their lack of astronomy knowledge, which leads them away from heading to a local event. Keep in mind that this day is all about learning!
Don’t be afraid to not know something. Experts and ever amateur astronomers will be more than happy to tell you everything they know and answer any questions you might have. With that in mind, you could head to a local astronomy club to get things started.
These locations often have slightly more expensive telescopes, giving you a unique glimpse of the stars. They can be made up of amateur or even professional astronomers, and often have unique objects and events for the public to look at.
Science centers are the next step up regarding professionalism and equipment. While these locations often feature events geared towards other aspects of science throughout the year, they can help you become more acquainted with the universe and other aspects of astronomy on this holiday. You might even luck out and find coffee or free snacks at these events.
Next, there are observatories. These are specialized rooms or buildings that house enormous telescopes designed to look deep into space. While they are usually reserved for use by scientific personnel, they become open to the public on Astronomy Day.
If there is an observatory nearby your area, it is highly recommended that you attend an event. Scientists from multiple fields are usually in attendance, all of whom can give you unique insights into the latest discoveries and tell you everything there is to know about the celestial bodies you are viewing.
These locations feature a list of programs with multiple dates for viewings, so be sure to look into events listed in your local paper. Presentations, workshops, and other activities all take place on both Astronomy Day dates. Figure out what you might enjoy most and join in on the fun!
Gazing at the Stars
Astronomy Day is a fun-filled event that brings people together as they marvel at all things outer space related. It offers unique glimpses into the stars through high-powered telescopes and connects individuals with scientists in the field of astronomy. Whether you love science or not, it’s a one of a kind experience.
Plan ahead this year and look into what events are taking place in your area. Whether you’re planning a date night, finding a fun activity for the kids, or are just interested in learning more about space yourself, then this is your chance to take part in a fantastic piece of the scientific community.
/federal-holidays/Fun Facts Surrounding Astronomy
To get you in the mood for the next Astronomy Day, here are some exciting and wholly unique discoveries that this realm of science has uncovered. There are also some fun facts about astronomy itself.
- There are thousands of planets already discovered outside of our solar system, but it is unknown how many have yet to be seen through a telescope
- One day on Venus is longer than a year on Earth
- The Earth can fit inside the sun one million times over
- Without gravity pushing you down, you become slightly taller in space
- Space begins 100km above Earth’s surface, which means you could theoretically drive there in less than an hour
- Despite Mercury being the closest planet to the sun, Venus is actually the hottest
- Nebula means cloud in Latin, which is an asp name for the gaseous clouds where stars are formed
- The North Star has been used as a means of navigation for centuries, but its position in the sky will eventually change. Back in 12000BCE, Vega was the North Star.
- The sun, and therefore our solar system, orbits the Milky Way Galaxy once every 200 million years
- Astronomer is an anagram of moon-starer
- The moon moves roughly 1.5 inches away from the Earth each year
- Sound cannot travel in space, making it entirely silent
- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune have no solid surfaces; they are only made of gasses
- A sunset on Mars shines blue
- As large as Saturn is, it would float if you placed it in water
- Neutron stars are incredibly dense, so much so that a teaspoon of one would weigh more than the entire Earth’s population