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How do you cultivate enthusiasm for astronomy among more people? By going to them instead of expecting them to come to you. Beginning in February 2022, a team of astronomers from the Anton Pannekoek Institute (API) will regularly be venturing into the city armed with telescopes to give people a free look at the stars. We will be popping up at public squares and in shopping districts on clear evenings to offer unsuspecting passers-by the opportunity to view the moon and stars.

A telescope surrounded by youngsters, one of whom is looking through the telescope
Stargazing on the Museumplein

Sidewalk astronomy

Sidewalk astronomy was the 1960s brainchild of the eccentric amateur astronomer John Dobson. Dobson made his own large telescopes from recycled materials and even designed a new type of telescope mount specifically for this activity. Dobson’s aim of allowing as many people as possible to stargaze and to learn more about the universe lives on in countless sidewalk astronomy clubs around the world.

This will not be the first time the API ventures out: in 2015 we had telescopes out at the EYE Filmmuseum during the marine event SAIL, and in subsequent years they were also present at various events in Amsterdam-Oost and downtown. To mark the Institute’s centenary, we have brought together a team of enthusiastic colleagues who are eager to share their knowledge of astronomy with as many Amsterdam residents as possible and to let them enjoy views of a starry night as well.

Planning

As this is an activity you can undertake only on clear evenings, dates and times are not determined far ahead. We will announce our presence and whereabouts on social media, or you might notice us while you’re out shopping or on the way home from work. We will at any rate try to take advantage of as many clear evenings where the moon is clearly visible.

We hope that, along with the library telescope, we will be able to address a broader public in this way. Because, be honest: don’t we all find space fascinating?

A telescope surrounded by people, one of whom (a young man) is looking through the telescope
Sidewalk Astronomy on the Museumplein
Image of two telescopes in the dark surrounded by tents
The API sidewalk astronomy telescopes during an earlier event: The Neighborhood Camping Festival

Social media

For more information (in Dutch) about setting up your own sidewalk astronomy project, refer to stoepsterrenkunde.nl