Bicycle Astronomy Project

Bicycle Astronomy Hatch Style FINAL BLOG

Bicyle Astronomy is a project to bring sustainable stargazing to the people via a bicycle-propelled telescope.

The Bicycle Astronomy project combines my passion for introducing people to the universe’s wonders and spurring them to think about sustainable transportation. I throw spontaneous star parties all around the city using a “long-tail” cargo bike called a Mundo to carry my observing gear and sandwich-board signs that I set up in Geneva the morning of an event.

The project started when I asked Jim Hogan, owner of the Geneva Bicycle Center, how he would define the bicycle. He said:

“It’s the most perfect tool for social transformation ever invented.”

I thought, that’s how I feel about the telescope. What if I put both technologies together?

Even the most jaded adults become wide-eyed children when looking at the moon, or Saturn’s rings through a telescope. The night sky has inspired artists, scientists and explorers since ancient times to push the threshold of knowledge and creative expression.

And yet most people have never looked through a telescope, or had someone explain what’s twinkling overhead. How many scientists, artists, and inventors are we losing because we haven’t introduced them to the source of incredible wonder that is the rest of the universe? With Bicycle Astronomy, I want to change that, giving every person in my city the chance to look through a telescope and, at least for a moment, be able to gaze in wonder at the grandeur of the universe.

Most people who observe the universe through a telescope come away with a profound appreciation for both the vastness of the universe and the smallness and precious rarity of our own planet. I want to inspire people to think creatively about sustainability, but also concretely. This is the role of the cargo bicycle in the project. In other words, the premise—and promise—of Bicycle Astronomy is to both inspire and ground that inspiration with an example of tangible action.

To do so, I teamed up with a local NGO, Geneva Community Projects, and used the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter to raise funds for the bicycle and lightweight telescopes. You can view the project here.  Many of my supporters are cyclists who had never considered the bicycle as a tool for outreach, let alone a platform for astronomical observations. Thanks to all of them for having the open mind and heart to help kickstart this project from dream to reality.

My first Bicycle Astronomy star party in October 2012 drew more than 40 people to one of our city’s tiny “pocket” parks — quite a good turnout, considering the drizzle we had had all week. The sky awed, and the bike intrigued. I let these things speak for themselves, confident in my mission to make the universe accessible to everyone and curious about what we might achieve if we approach our shared challenges with a slightly more cosmic perspective. At the very least, my project might get more cyclists looking up, and more astronomers on bikes.

7 thoughts on “Bicycle Astronomy Project

  1. Doug, I really want to chat with you about starting a
    bicycle astronomy program here in San Antonio, Texas. I have a Yuba
    Mundo and telescopes ranging from 90mm etx to a 16″ dobsonian. I
    recently replied to your YouTube post of your yuba hauling gear for
    astronomy in which I had my 10″ dob on my yuba. I’m part of the San
    Antonio Astronomy Association and we are members of the NASA night
    sky network of sidewalk astronomy groups and rank in the top ten
    nationally for outreach events. I’m no stranger to
    outreach/sidewalk astronomy. I live near an atheletic field that
    people use often and have thought it would be very easy to carry a
    small telescope over to the parking lot and share the night sky
    with the people there. My bicycle blog of www. bike 4. heck. com
    and my astronomy blog (which hasn’t been updated in a while) is
    http:// matt astro. blog spot. com/. I’ve got 95% of the tools
    necessary to do this but wanted to speak with you about doing it
    and using the phrase “bicycle astronomy” A phone chat would be
    nice. Please email me and I’ll pass along my phone number so we can
    chat.

  2. Doug
    You have come up with an interesting twist on the Sidewalk Astronomer program. I share my love of amateur astronomy and model rocketry by volunteering in the Civil Air Patrol’s cadet program, the 4-H Aerospace Education Program, and the Federation of Galaxy Explorers youth program. You should contact these three youth programs to locate local chapters in your area. Both Civil Air Patrol and 4-H Club have local chapters in every state and the Federation of Galaxy Explorers has local chapters in about ten or twelve states.

    Also!!! You should make the Astronomy Foundation aware of your efforts to promote amateur astronomy in Geneva. The Astronomy Foundation is a collaborative effort to inspire an interest in amateur and professional astronomy in the next generation. Each of these organizations can be found on the internet. And the Federation of Galaxy Explorers youth program specializes in inspiring youth to take an interest in astronomy and astronautics and their national headquarters is in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    Their website addresses are:
    http://www.foge.org
    http://www.gocivilairpatrol.com
    and
    http://nys4h.cce.cornell.edu

    Also, one other thing to consider is that some local amateur astronomy clubs have Young Astronomers programs or Junior Astronomers programs.

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