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Astronomy and Alcatraz

Alcatraz island with a starry sky

Alcatraz … isolated, foreboding, and notorious. Historically not a place known for learning or looking up.

Today, however, as one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, visitors experience a new dimension of this landmark: astronomy. Thanks to the ASP, and thanks to donors like you. Your gift during our Spring Appeal means that the ASP’s Astronomy from the Ground Up program can continue to train Alcatraz historical interpreters like Elana Garfinkle. Elana and her colleagues who incorporate the once remote wonders of the night sky while sharing stories about this once remote island:

“My first ASP training was in November 2012 … and brought together local amateur astronomers with park interpreters. Training focused on Solar Astronomy and techniques on interpreting the sun for park visitors and community programs, incorporating science, history, and storytelling … Since this training and the AFGU online workshop, I have developed both a solar astronomy tour and dark sky and constellation tour for the Alcatraz Night Tour with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.”

Like Elana, the ASP thrives when we make the remote accessible. With your help, we can continue to thrive, continue to showcase the sky we love, and continue to make an exponential impact on audiences far and wide:

“I believe deeply in the importance and relevance of dark sky conservation and solar astronomy … With the flow of thousands of people from all over the world visiting Alcatraz, I am able to share the bounty of knowledge I now have about the sky with a large number of people on a regular basis thanks to ASP.”

Through teaching and training programs, the ASP empowers individuals to empower others in the way they see the world:

“The most humbling moment is when you have a visitor look into the telescope or moon binoculars and they let out a “Whoaaaaa!” This moment is priceless, and has led me to believe I am bringing astronomy and science to those who may not have ever even thought about it.”

Yet these remain challenging times for endeavors in exploration, scientific discovery and education advocacy. While the ASP has thrived recently in large part by winning competitive grants funded at the federal level, we are now experiencing direct and adverse effects of congressional budget uncertainty. Your support has never been more vital, and thanks to your belief in our shared mission, we remain undaunted in our efforts to foster science literacy through astronomy.

Making the remote accessible, understandable and meaningful … this is how the ASP enables and inspires people like Elana and her 1,000+ informal education peers in national and regional parks, museums and planetariums who benefit from ASP training. Our impact continues via some 3,000 teacher/astronomer partnerships through Project ASTRO, and our work with 400+ astronomy clubs and 2.4 million people who participate in the Night Sky Network activities.

We hope you keep learning, keep looking up, and,— perhaps most important,— help keep the sky with all of its wonders and lessons readily accessible for everyone. One of the best ways to accomplish this? A contribution to the ASP. We ask for your support this spring to bring the understanding of our universe and the value of science into everyone’’s everyday lives.

Thanks to you — and together with you — we can ensure a science literate world. Please visit and make a gift today.