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Our Pittsburgh Constellation

Riding on the Pittsburgh mayor’s keen interest in astronomy and the ongoing change of 40,000 city lights from mercury and sodium vapor to shielded LEDs, we organized a series of city-wide celestial art projects to bring attention to the skies over Pittsburgh. Light pollution public talks were held at the University of Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Observatory and other colleges. Earth Hour celebrations kicked off an intensive year of astronomy outreach in the city. Lights went out on March 28, 2015 from 8:30 to 9:30 pm in over fifty buildings downtown and in Oakland (the “Eds and Meds” center, where many Pittsburgh universities and hospitals are located). Our art contest was announced at the De-Light Pittsburgh celebration at the Carnegie Science Center during Astronomy Weekend. “Our Pittsburgh Constellation” is an interactive Google map of all things astronomical in the city. Different colored stars mark locations of planetariums, star parties, classes, observatories, lecture series, museums, telescope manufacturers and participating art galleries. Contest entrants submitted artwork depicting their vision of the constellation figure that incorporates and connects all the “stars” in our custom city map. Throughout the year, over a dozen artists ran workshops on painting star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, comets, planets and aurorae with discussions of light pollution solutions and scientific explanations of what the patrons were painting, including demonstrations with emission tubes and diffraction grating glasses. We will display the celestial art created in this International Year of Light at an art gallery as part of the City’s Department of Innovation & Performance March 2016 Earth Hour gala. We are thankful for the Astronomical Footprint grant from the Heinz Endowments, which allowed us to bring the worlds of science and art together to enact social change.

Diane Turnshek

AUTHORS/INSTITUTIONS: D. Turnshek, Physics, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, UNITED STATES

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