There’s no doubt that October was a month of astronomical proportions for space science. From a stellar supermoon to solar prominences and Halloween asteroids, it was hard to find a reason NOT to look up at the night sky! But it was a particularly special time for The Franklin Institute as our very own Derrick Pitts made his way to Washington to represent the Institute as one of the nation’s most renowned astronomy educators and telescope operators at this year’s White House Star Party on October 19.

This wasn’t Derrick’s first trip to the White House for the Presidential Star Party. After joining fellow visionaries from the astronomy and space industry in 2009, Derrick was invited back this year to spend the evening stargazing with students on the South Lawn. He was joined by Bill Nye, the Mythbusters, and many science luminaries and astronauts alike. As the astronomy night took place at the White House, scientists and amateur astronomers were encouraged to join in the celebration by hosting their own events at observatories, schools, planetariums, and museums across the country.

We took them up on the offer! In our own backyard, we helped to host two events in support of the Star Party in Washington. The first was sponsored by the city at Thomas Paine Plaza and was full of exciting astronomy programming. Later that week our NASA grant-funded City Skies program partnered with community development leader Esperanza on the most successful urban Star Party to date. More than 500 people, many without opportunities to learn about astronomy, gathered in Hunting Park to get a view of the night sky. Derrick Pitts and Franklin Institute educators were onsite, providing hands-on activities to get the crowd excited about space science.

It’s only through our generous supporters and partners that The Franklin Institute can continue to make science learning accessible to all audiences. To learn more about what we do out in the community, or to find out how you can plan your own star party at home, visit our Programs in the Community page.