Astronomy announces 2010 Out-of-this-world Award Winner

2010 Out-of-this-world Award logo

With more than 30 entries, the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit wins Astronomy’s annual award honoring astronomy outreach programs.

By Bill Andrews Published: March 31, 2011in Astronomy Magazine

Astronomy magazine has chosen the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit (SBAU) as the winner of the 2010 Out-of-this-world Award for outstanding programming.

SBAU separated itself from the pack with its extensive, almost prolific outreach programs, which provided more than 16,000 individuals personal access to telescopes, information, and friendly helpful people. Whether through its monthly public star parties, regular visits to schools, or even assisting fledgling astronomy clubs, the group has gone out of its way to inspire everyone with the majesty and promise of the cosmos.

Well, not quite everyone: SBAU plans to use the money on its “You Can See Too” (UC2) program, which caters specifically to the wheelchair-bound segment of the populace. Construction has already begun on a custom-designed UC2 scope, featuring a portable hydraulic lift system, so the SBAU can use it not only at public star parties, but also on trips to hospitals and nursing homes as well. Thanks to the $2,500 from Astronomy magazine, to use toward its outreach activities, SBAU can continue to reach out to all members of the public, leading ever more people to fall in love with the sky.

Work on the scope is going well thanks to the group’s members, according to SBAU President Ruben Gutierrez. “We have some great people here,” he says, “and we’ve been very well received. It really is a cool club.”

SBAU is lucky enough to have members with expertise in design and construction, which helped minimize the UC2 project’s cost. The telescope itself had already been procured, but now the group can finish building the mount itself — including the hydraulic lift, accessories, and proper signage according to California code. The design specs and blueprints sent as part of the award application helped show how serious SBAU is about continuing its extensive tradition of providing outreach to everyone.

Astronomy’s Out-of-this-world Award rewards ongoing programs sponsored by an educational or civic organization. The award recognizes a group’s sustained efforts to involve its local community in the science and hobby of astronomy. SBAU is the fifth winner since the award debuted in 2006. Last year’s award went to the Amateur Observers’ Society of New York, the previous year’s award went to the Cincinnati Observatory Center, and the 2007 award went to the Aldrich Astronomical Society in Winchendon, Massachusetts. In 2006, Astronomy’s editors selected Celestial North, Inc., an astronomy club in Freeland, Washington, to win the inaugural award. The winner receives $2,500 from Astronomy magazine. This year, more than 30 groups entered, from almost two dozen states and six countries.

“As usual, we struggled to choose the winner this year,” says David J. Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine. “So much great outreach happens all over this country — all over the world, in fact. Each of the groups and clubs who entered deserves congratulations for their efforts, and we thank them for doing so much to promote the hobby and science of astronomy.”



The Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit of California (SBAU), seen here (in part) during a star party, is Astronomy magazine’s 2010 Out-of-this-world award winner.

Photo by Ruben Gutierrez


SBAU’s outreach has provided thousands of people the opportunity to gaze upon and understand the heavens; this photo is from a star party with more than 2,000 girl scouts and 1,000 parents in attendance.

Photo by Ruben Gutierrez


SBAU’s outreach efforts provided more than 16,000 people personal access to telescopes, information, and friendly helpful people in 2010 alone.

Photo by Ruben Gutierrez

Out-of-this-world 2010 update

Just over a month ago, we announced that the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit had won our 2010 Out-of-this-world Award for public outreach. Ruben Gutierrez, the group’s president, recently let me know how they’re doing, and how they’ve put the award money to good use.


The Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit mascot “Astro the Lion” greets visitors during the group’s National Astronomy Day festivities, accompanied by their Astronomy magazine Out-of-this-world Award certificate for all to see. // Ruben Gutierrez photo

On May 7, 2011, the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit (SBAU) not only celebrated National Astronomy Day, but also held our much-anticipated debut of the UC2 (You See Too) wheelchair-accessible telescope viewing system. Thanks to the Astronomy magazine Out-of-this-world Award, we completed construction of the UC2, including a full range of accessories such as a set of wide-angle eyepieces, a variable polarizing Moon filter, two per-code wheelchair accessible signs, and a dew shield. There’s even a laser and telescope-mounting bracket equipped with a remote switch, which the viewer can use to see where in the sky the UC2 points!

The SBAU is very grateful to Astronomy for selecting our club this year, and under the extraordinary leadership of club Outreach Coordinator Chuck McPartlin, and talented members such as UC2 designer Jim Williams, the SBAU will continue with its motto of “Come See The Stars With Us.”

UC2 (You See Too) designer Jim Williams is all smiles on the day that his years of hard work finally came to fruition in a practical, and portable, wheelchair-accessible telescope viewing system. // Ruben Gutierrez photo

Here's a link to a blog post at Astronomy Magazine about the UC2 on Astronomy Day.