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Sharing Astronomy with the World

Mercury Spring 2008 Table of Contents

Simmons opening page

The summer Milky Way over seaside stones at Lesconil, Brittany, France.
Courtesy Laurent Laveder.

by Mike Simmons

Away from city lights, beneath a blanket of stars, the child in all of us comes alive. Something basic, perhaps primitive, beckons our gaze skyward. After a lifetime spent in the fog of light pollution, a glimpse of the stars as our ancestors knew them evokes awe at their beauty and grandeur. It's the same wherever, or whoever, we are. A fascination with astronomy connects us in a way no other science can.

Connecting the World

Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) draws on this common interest to link astronomy enthusiasts worldwide. Sharing is an integral part of appreciating the cosmos. It shows up on a local level when amateur astronomers take their telescopes to public sites and invite others to explore the sky with them. AWB extends this concept to people around the world. After all, we share the same sky.

In isolated countries, contact with fellow astronomers in the West is often nothing short of a miracle. When the Amateur Astronomers Association of Kurdistan (AAAK) in northern Iraq heard that I would be visiting them to research an article for a US publication, the bold headline of their newsletter read, "WE ARE NOT ALONE ANYMORE!" The visit of a lone American astronomer was historic for this active local group. The amateur astronomer who first befriended the group also cherishes the relationship that allows him to talk directly with his new friends in Iraq.

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