Spooky stargazing can be a lot of fun! If you want to get lots of kids to your telescope, performing sidewalk astronomy on Halloween may sound like a perfect idea, and the American Astronomical Association (AAS) agrees! The AAS Division for Planetary Sciences' "Trick or Treat and Telescopes" initiative is aimed at bringing astronomy to as many trick-or-treaters as possible on Halloween. This new initiative is based on an activity that AAS member Richard Schmude Jr. performed for years, with over 5,000 children reached by his count. Amateur astronomers are encouraged to set up their telescopes during trick-or-treat time on Halloween on their own lawns, sidewalks, or even in neighbor lawns with better viewing conditions or more traffic.
Some important tips for great Halloween stargazing include:
- Preserve Night Vision with Red Light: Use red lighting in your viewing area. This keeps pedestrians visible to cars without ruining your ability to see the stars. Red light is also a appropriately moody and spooky. If you are near a busy roadway, consider a prominent sign to let cars know folks might be gathered and easily blinded by headlights.
- Temporary Storage for Elaborate Costumes and Masks: Some costumes will not be ideal for peering through an eyepiece. Have a space to take off and store cumbersome costumes or masks while viewing.
- Prepare for Sticky Fingers and Messy Faces: Candy is great, except when it gets on your optics and equipment! Baby wipes or a little hand-washing station will reduce the risk to your equipment (note: this also helps with accidental makeup smears!)
- Ken DeSilva shared a great hack for keeping eyepieces clean with rings of PVC pipe - an especially handy trick for dealing with Halloween makeup!
You can check out the Trick or Treat and Telescope's page on the AAS website for more advice and connections to additional resources to help you make the most of your potential trick or treating stargazers. Jane Houston Jones also offers a fun Spooky Stargazing list (2014), with a wide variety of objects to keep every level of visitor entertained.
Need some additional décor? NASA offers their excellent Galaxy of Horrors series of posters for download.
Find other events in your area and see what neighboring clubs are up to by checking out the Night Sky Network's events list for Halloween. Stay warm and stay safe this Halloween, and may your skies be clear and the weather great-not just for great stargazing, but for great trick or treating!
Originally Posted by Dave Prosper: October 2022
Last Updated by Kat Troche: September 2023