Doug Reilly, director of the Center for Global Education, was recently a guest on “Here on Earth,” a program on Wisconsin Public Radio. Reilly is the creator of the blog “Punk Astonomy.” He discussed the blog and astronomy in general on the program.
“Like anything punk, it is always being defined and redefined,” Reilly explained. “It’s astronomy with a do-it-yourself attitude, shared with people publicly and getting the message out that there’s a lot to look up and see in the night sky.”
When asked how he goes about prosthelytizing astronomy, Reilly laughed and said what he does is a “gentle form of prosthelytizing, but with few words.” He sets up a telescope on a street corner in Geneva and invites passers-by to see something in the night sky, whether it’s Saturn or simply a quarter moon.
“Mostly, they respond as a child would – and I mean that in a good way – and all that wonder comes out,” he says.
Reilly’s early experiences with the night stars were not inspiring. Growing up in Long Island, he said the light pollution from New York City made the night sky a pink color, with just the moon and maybe one of the brightest planets visible. His father would take him to a planetarium where they would project a starry sky on the ceiling and Reilly would view it in disbelief.
A family vacation in second grade brought him to Lake Placid, N.Y, in the Adirondacks, where he first saw a star-filled sky and even the Milky Way. “That was when I found out the planetarium wasn’t lying,” he says.
While his studies and his career path deviated from astronomy, he returned to it as an amateur interest after two years of service in the Peace Corps.
The full interview is available online.