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A. Sarrazine, E. Albin (Fernbank Science Center)
Across the country, thousands of novice sky watchers flock to publicly operated observatories each week for a look at the heavens. The purpose of the current investigation is to acquire a better understanding of the knowledge level and viewing desires of the average public stargazer. Over a three month period, data were collected from several hundred participants attending open house on either Thursday or Friday evening at the Fernbank Science Center observatory in Atlanta, GA. The facility operates a 0.9 meter Cassegrain reflecting telescope dedicated to secondary and public education -- and was established in 1967 as part of a large planetarium / museum complex. Typical objects observed include planets, binary stars, bright Messier objects as well as naked eye observations of constellations and artificial satellites. A twenty question survey was employed as a data collection tool. Questions were divided into two categories: a) participant expectations and b) prior astronomy knowledge. Results will assist in better tailoring observatory open house sessions and outreach programs to the interests and needs of the public.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.