While the museum is closed due to the pandemic, staff are still providing opportunities for guests to learn and have a good time. So, in celebration of National Astronomy Day, the museum is offering free virtual sessions over Zoom, where guests can learn and ask questions about outer space. Planetarium manager Howard Hochhalter will discuss everything from the wonders of our galaxy to proper stargazing equipment and what you might see in Saturday night's sky.
"We have three exciting programs to celebrate the day," says Hochhalter. At 1o a.m., he will give a beginner's course called the "ABCs of Astronomy," followed by a Q&A session called "AHA! (Ask Howard Anything)" at 1 p.m. A virtual story hour will also be available for kids at 3 p.m. Then Hochhalter will return for "Star Talk" at 4 p.m., where members of the astronomy club will share photographs of the moon, stars, galaxies and more of what you'll see in that night's sky.
“We want people to learn about the night sky, and connect with each other in some way,” says Hochhalter. “We also want to develop realistic expectations for what they will see.”
National Astronomy Day is celebrated twice a year in the United States, during the fall and spring seasons, but Hochhalter says that every clear night is a celebration for stargazers. He hopes experts and amateurs alike step outside and take a closer look, whether they own a telescope or not.
This is also the planetarium's first time conducting virtual sessions, and while museum staff would have preferred a physical gathering, the virtual option will suffice.
"We could reach a larger audience this way," says Hochhalter.
"Blast Off With The Bishop" is on Saturday, May 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. over Zoom. To register and learn more, click here or call (941) 746-4131. Registration is free.