Video from the White House star party

By Phil Plait | October 9, 2009 12:30 pm

This video from the White House star party held the other night makes me smile. A lot.

Wow, that’s quite a star lineup! I wish I could’ve been there too. Maybe next year…

And the quote of the night from the President, who said this in response to a young girl who was 14 when she discovered a supernova, and a high school sophomore who found a rare type of pulsar:

NASA’s equipment is some pretty powerful stuff. But astronomy also depends on the curiosity and contribution of amateur astronomers. […] If they can discover something great, so can any of you other students who are here tonight. All you need is a passion for science.

Damn straight. And awesome.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (38)

  1. Yup. I saw that yesterday.
    Not to nitpick (have you listened to the Geologic podcast today? Ha!) but no NASA equipment was used to find that pulsar. It was all NSF funded with AURA/NRAO equipment:

    Too bad they didn’t have dark enough skies to put that Celestron on the Ring Nebula… Would’ve made a better story than the double double. Maybe he’ll take his girls to the Naval Observatory and have a peek through the Clark refractor over there.

    BTW, if any of you BAblogees are in Virginia this weekend:
    The NRAO is having an open house! Come one, come all! Lots of activities for the kids!

  2. Michael Kremer

    I’m sure they would have seen more if they turn off the camera lights! That’s worst than sitting under a street light for viewing.

  3. It’s too bad they didn’t turn the lights out! I can’t imagine being able to see much with all the TV lights and such!

  4. Siguy

    I saw this video last night. Personally I thought it was hilarious see Barack looking in the telescope, having gone to so many public programs with my astronomy club, it was clear that he couldn’t see it, or didn’t know what he was supposed to be looking for.

    But everything he said about amateur astronomer’s contributions and such is excellent. Great to see science advocacy in politics.

    On a side note, gee, Caroline Moore has really become a celebrity. Normally the media doesn’t pay much notice to astronomical discoveries, but when you add a human element, like the youngest person to discover a supernova, or similar, it gets quite a lot of attention.

  5. Doc

    Heh. I saw the blue doors behind the president and immediately thought, “TARDIS”.

  6. mus

    Ha ha ha… way to ruin the night of those two poor students.

    I’m sure they were feeling awesome and special until Obama said anyone could do what they did.

  7. Dennis

    completely off topic, but I’ve been wondering for a while now:

    Have you unveiled your science tattoo yet?

    If so, how did I miss it and where can I see it?

    If not, when?

  8. Much better than GWB’s star party, in which Mr. Potus commanded them astrologers to point their scopes toward the Executive Office Building ‘n see if they could spot some heavenly bodies. Snicker. Snort.

  9. mariana

    Anyone complain that President Obama was brainwashing the children again?

  10. Did he not mispronounce Mae Jemison’s name to “Jameson”? I’m sure that must be something she gets alot.

  11. Pyro Lizard

    I wonder if he could actually resolve Epsilon 1 and 2 with those powerful lights overhead. Would’ve been cooler if they had the lights off, and filmed in night vision.

  12. The science advisor should’ve eschewed the microphones and gone over to the scope with Obama and lent a hand. He could’ve given him some assistance at least. Maybe the owner of the scope could’ve stepped in and helped… Prolly heavily armed fellows there who’d have taken a dim view (get it?) of all that, though…
    Wish -I- would’ve been there too. I had a meeting to run, soooooo………..

  13. tsmiljanich

    Just to see a President who cares enough to do this and spotlight it, and shows enthusiasm for science, both professional and amateur, is good enough for me. Makes me appreciate what we’ve missed for oh so many years of lackluster scientific interest from the top.

  14. Mike

    Wow, that’s a fantastic comment from the President. Just fantastic.

  15. Interesting to see the ‘entire’ (compared to the :15 soundbytes) party intro. I also watched reports on MSNBC’s site for both Countdown and Rachel Maddow Show about LRO and this party.
    Richard Drumm: the ‘scope was from Derrick Pitts, Franklin Institute Chief Astronomer (was on Countdown).


  16. The White House also released another video (click my name) which is well worth watching. It’s a half hour of questions with Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, on the White House lawn, advocating for science.

  17. Jeremy

    Great stuff :) He should get some kind of prize ūüėČ

  18. Autumn

    The speech was Saganesque, but I liked that, given the impossibility of going from staring into camera-lights to looking into a telescope, he went back for another try.

  19. ¬ęb√łnez_brigade¬Ľ

    Thank FSM he didn’t end the speech w/ “GbyaGbA”.

    Ed Weiler makes an appearance at the 10 min mark, fwiw.

  20. Kevin McCoy

    President Obama is famously a left-handed writer, but is looking through the telescope with his right eye. Interesting.

  21. StevoR

    @ 5. tsmiljanich Says:

    Just to see a President who cares enough to do this and spotlight it, and shows enthusiasm for science, both professional and amateur, is good enough for me. Makes me appreciate what we’ve missed for oh so many years of lackluster scientific interest from the top.

    Seconded by me! :-)

  22. Jane

    I am proud to have a president who cares about science and wants kids to be passionate about it. I hope he gets a chance sometime to do some observing under more favorable conditions!

  23. Matthew Ota

    I do not think the Secret Service would approve of turning all of the lights out with the President in attendance. Security takes priority over everything else, at least in this case.

  24. Murff

    “All you need is a passion for science”, nice to hear that from our President.

  25. cmflyer

    My favorite story, that I tell my students every year, is the Mae Jemison was inspired by Star Trek, became an astronaut, then got a part in…..Star Trek!

    BTW, was that Epsilon Lyrae they were looking at?

  26. Yup, Epsilon Lyrae, the double double. It’s near the zenith in the early evening these days and you can see by the orientation of the scope that’s what they’re looking at. Nice to look at, but not a show-stopper. Should’ve highlighted Jupiter instead, and milked the Galileo anniversary angle… Oh well…

  27. Stonez

    I may not agree with a lot of his politics, but it’s brilliant to have a president who seems genuinely excited about science and promoting science to our children.

    Kudos Mr O.

  28. StephenG

    Great stuff! Could you imagine George W. Bush doing anything like this

  29. Amanda

    @30 I feel the same way. However, it’s also good that they highlighted something that most people would not have heard of before (including yours truly.) That would draw attention to the new subject (in this case Elipson Lyrae) and make the populous just that much more educated.

  30. Robert

    I was a great event, They did turn the lights off on the white house and the press was told no lights or flash. The President and first family spent about an hour and a half looking at all sorts of stuff, they even got a look in a 24″ Dob. the event ended at 10:00 when the light came back on. and you I’m the Robert from the star party video.


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