Have you ever wondered how awesome Galileo Galilei must have felt when he saw the jagged craters on the moon for the first time, or when he first glimpsed Jupiter's giant moons? Just by looking up at the night sky you can become an explorer – and there's so much to discover! You could catch sight of a shooting star (meteor), find out what conditions are like on our neighbouring planets or measure across the vast, emptiness of space and find out just how far away other galaxies are. In the words of Carl Sagan, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” And if you want to be the one to discover it, we're here to help. The Awesome Amateur Astronomer is a 10-step walk-through to becoming a space explorer!
The Awesome Amateur Astronomer website has been designed for children of all ages, although for those younger than 8 years adult supervision is recommended. Starting with naked-eye observations of the night sky, a day-trip to your local planetarium or looking at a map of the stars, children don't need any previous experience to take part. The guide let's participants move through the steps at their own pace and by the end they'll have all the skills of a professional astronomer; the ability to research, measure, observe and even build their own tools!
The creator of the website, Maria Hammerstrøm, a graphic designer turned astronomer and former UNAWE intern, tells us what sets this guide apart: “Most of the existing websites for young amateur astronomers only mention how to perform night sky observations. My intention with this website is to bring together all aspects of being an amateur astronomer, not just observing, but also building your own tools, measuring, analysis and research”.
Not only does this website show kids what it takes to be a real astronomer, but it also encourages them to be social, which is a very important aspect of amateur astronomy. Step five is all about sharing; sharing your findings in online forums, joining a local astronomy club or getting their friends involved, for example.
To help motivate kids to complete the 10 steps there are a number of badges to be earned along the way. Each of the 10 steps has a number of tasks to complete – for some the tasks are defined, for others they are open. When these assignments have been completed a digital badge is issued, that can be shared on social media platforms or astronomy forums, they can even be printed and added to a scrap book or used as a sticker. If a participant finishes all 10 steps they earn a “super badge” and are invited to send in their photo which will be posted on the website's “wall of fame”. To send in a picture of you with your super badge, the email address is: [email protected].
The 10 step guide is also available in a print-ready PDF format: http://silver-city.info/resources/guides/AwesomeAstro/