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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Buy cool stuff, support Astronomers Without Borders

By Phil Plait

I've written a few times about Astronomers Without Borders (like here) -- they're a non-profit group whose aim is to bring people together via astronomy. The more folks they get looking up, the better. Sounds like a good plan to me, which is why I support them.

To raise money, they've partnered with Southern Stars, the company that created the wonderful planetarium app Sky Safari. Until the end of the month, the app is discounted, with 30% of the proceeds going to AWB. I use Sky Safari myself all the time, and I really like it. The basic version is $1.99 (normally it's $2.99), the Plus version is $11.99 (normally $14.99) and the pro version is $39.99 (normally $59.99). You can download it via the Apple Store, and there's an Android version as well.

Another item they're using to raise money is something I think is pretty cool: solar eclipse glasses! I've used these before, and from what I can tell they're safe to use to look at the Sun. They're under a buck each, and less if you buy in bulk (for a school or some other group, for example). These would be pretty useful for the upcoming partial solar eclipse in May as well the transit of Venus in June. I used a pair like these for the Venus transit in 2004 and could easily see the tiny disk of Venus as a black dot against the Sun's surface. It was awesome.

They're also selling a small telescope -- I haven't used this particular model before, honestly, so I can't say much about it. However, if you buy one, then for a small added amount ($20) they will send a second telescope to a deserving group in the developing world. That's a wonderful idea, and would really help spread the joy of astronomy.

I really can't stress that enough. If you've ever been to a star party, or some other gathering like that, and seen the look on a kid's face when they see the Moon, say, or Saturn through a telescope for the first time... well. I'm neither exaggerating nor being overly sentimental when I say it's life-changing.

I know this first hand. When I first saw Saturn through a small telescope when I was five, it put me on the road to where I am now. I'd say that's a pretty good start. Astronomers Without Borders wants to see that happen a few million more times all around the world, and that sounds like a world I want to live in.

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