Astronomers Without Borders: A Global Astronomy Community
Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) brings people together through our common interest in astronomy. Whether in Tehran or Los Angeles, we all share the same sky. Amateur astronomers around the world have the same activities that US amateurs do but with some cultural differences. AWB programs connect us all under the motto One People, One Sky in many ways -- observing the same objects or events, observing online together, sharing resources with amateurs and educators in developing countries, providing astronomy resources for the disabled, and even astronomy in the arts and culture. The growing community is now the largest devoted to astronomy worldwide.
Mike Simmons has been an amateur astronomer for 40 years and loves sharing the sky with others. Mike joined the Los Angeles Astronomical Society in the early 1970s and served in many capacities including two terms as President and ten years on the Board of Directors. In 1976 he joined the staff of Griffith Observatory where he operated the Zeiss 12-inch refracting telescope for the public and described the many facets of astronomy to tens of thousands of visitors.
In the early 1980s Mike was instrumental in founding the Mount Wilson Observatory Association (MWOA), a support organization dedicated to improving the experience of visitors to the renowned observatory. He served as the founding President of MWOA and was on the Board of Trustees for some 20 years.
Mike's outreach efforts in astronomy broadened in 1999 when he traveled to Iran for a total solar eclipse. In Iran he found an enthusiastic astronomy community lacking the resources easily found in the West. He has since traveled to Iran several times, and in 2004 he led a group of Westerners to Iran to observe the rare Transit of Venus alongside hundreds of Iranian amateur astronomers. In 2006 Mike traveled to the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, bringing observing equipment donated by American astronomers to their enthusiastic but isolated Kurdish counterparts. He has also assisted amateur astronomers and educators in many countries via the Internet. Seeing astronomy as a universal interest that transcends cultural differences, Mike founded Astronomers Without Borders in 2006. He now serves as President of this effort to unite astronomy and space enthusiasts around the world through those common interests.
Mike is also a writer and photographer who has contributed to publications including Scientific American, Astronomy and Sky and Telescope where he is a Contributing Editor. He regularly gives presentations, both in the US and abroad, on his experiences and interests, and on his outlook on international relations through astronomy. During the UN-declared International Year of Astronomy 2009 Mike led the effort to organize the Cornerstone Project "100 Hours of Astronomy" in more than 100 countries, the largest outreach effort of the year.
In 2005 Mike was presented with the Clifford W. Holmes Award, an honor given annually by RTMC for a "Major Contribution to Popularizing Astronomy." In 2009 Mike received the prestigious G. Bruce Blair Award given annually by the Western Amateur Astronomers for "outstanding contributions to amateur astronomy." Minor Planet Simmons was named in his honor in 2003, in part for his "varied outreach activities in astronomy."
"What's Up?" in this month will be presented by Don McClelland