October 7th, 2009
10:12 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama hosts a night of stargazing


The students coming to the White House tonight will be met by the 'Inflatable Dome,' a virtual universe that displays a realistic virtual show of the galaxies. (Photo Credit: Erika Dimmler/CNN)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - One hundred and forty lucky middle school aged students are headed to the South Lawn at the White House this evening for a night of star gazing with President Obama – but this time, the proceedings have nothing to do with Hollywood royalty.

Tonight's festivities will target a very specific age group, one that typically succumbs to peer pressure and tends to move away from science and technology. According to former astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, who was on the South Lawn for a preview and will be there this evening, 'this reminds them that science is cool, and tonight's event might let them hold onto that interest' going into high school and college.

The students from local middle schools in Washington, DC and Virginia who are coming to the White House tonight will be met by the 'Inflatable Dome,' a virtual universe that displays a realistic virtual show of the galaxies, as well as roughly twenty telescopes scattered about the lawn and pointed toward the heavens. Max Mutchler, a Hubble scientist, will be manning the Odyssey 8 telescope. Beyond the stars and the Earth's own moon, according to Mutchler, the big draw this evening will be Jupiter and its moons, specifically the four brightest orbs - the same moons that Galileo first saw over 400 years ago - and the cloud structures that surround them.

As for Dr. Ride and her fondest memories of her time in space, she told CNN that "launch is something absolutely spectacular, no astronaut ever forgets it. And the view back at earth. It's an absolutely spectacular view, and it gave me a different appreciation for the planet, the fragility of the planet and the importance of protecting it. And the appreciation that we live someplace that is unique."

The hope for tonight is that some students will realize it too.

Filed under: Extra • Popular Posts • President Obama • White House
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. bellablue

    Just one more example of how focused our President continues to be. Amidst all of the hoopla about healthcare, the concerns about the Irag and Afghanistan wars, along with the "behavior" of the Iranians, and continued concerns about job loss for so many Americans, and the slow return of our economy out of a severe recession, our President STILL has time this evening to promote NASA, as well as educate America's children. These children who were chosen to attend this educational program, will NEVER forget being chosen and being in attendance on this special evening.

    October 7, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  2. ib

    Obama lives in a dream world so this fits. he has no idea of what it is like to live in a real world or run a real country not destroy it.

    October 7, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  3. Mike

    Fantastic!, we need to engage our kids in desiring to learn about science and mathematics. I appreciate the President's role in inspiring these youngsters. I know some will say it is a waste of his time, but is there really such a thing as wasting time with our youth. I wish someone had inspired me to study science.

    October 7, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  4. Tommy

    What – no astrologer night? What is this thing called "Science"? Just another annoying distraction from the real things in life – money and material.

    Thank goodness we have a president in office that is not an imbecile!

    October 7, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  5. Steve in St. Louis

    Excellent idea! Even if this sparks the interest of just one future scientist, it would be worthwhile. Hooray for science education!

    October 7, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  6. What a night!

    This would have been so exciting for me as a child. I am so proud of my president. It is amazing that this story did not get more attention. President Obama has spent more time with our children in this small amount of time than any other president in my lifetime. I know people are going to find something negative to say. I teach middle school and we cannot wait to share this event with our students!

    October 7, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  7. bibek

    Obama is such a nice guy...

    October 7, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  8. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    this president is so cool

    he does 21 century stuff and I think even when this country and the world is struggling to get back on our feet .MR. Obama and his people are doing everything they can to make it better and doing a star gazing on the white house lawn is just what we need .

    fire it up ready to go !!!!!!


    October 7, 2009 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  9. Tim

    It's really nice to see a president who recognizes the value of science and kids. Great Job!

    October 7, 2009 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  10. BobH

    It is so refreshing to have a President who values science.

    October 7, 2009 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  11. douglass

    I love how this administration engages the nation and the youth to the best in ourselves. Inspirational!!!

    October 7, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  12. Of course

    Nice title!!! think you can make it sound more like Obama is a celeb!! why bash on this guy hes trying to to good for this country and not his wallet like past presidents did!

    October 7, 2009 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  13. jeffrey root

    I really admire President Obama and his support for education. I just wish he would help NASA out more.

    October 7, 2009 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  14. Paula

    I am in awe of this President and his ability to understand what's important. As a retired Superintendent of Schools, I have often wondered why our government wasn't following the lead of the days of Sputnik and our interest in the sciences. Children enjoy science and yet we haven't emphasized it in our schools for a long time. Shame on us! Thank you, President Obama. Once again you show us what's important. I'm very proud of our country and what you're doing. Keep up the good work.

    October 7, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  15. John

    Lots of moon tonight for good stargazing.

    October 7, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  16. Joe

    Good stuff...

    October 7, 2009 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  17. Jim

    Its nice having a president that cares about science education.

    October 7, 2009 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  18. Andrea Schweitzer, Ph.D., U.S. IYA Project Manager

    We are very pleased to see the support from the White House for astronomy, science, engineering and math education, especially in this year, the International Year of Astronomy 2009! You can learn more about U.S. programs for IYA at: astronomy2009.us which includes flyers on how to get involved (for families, teachers, amateur astronomers and more), resources to host your own star party or astronomy event, and links to our many programs. Andrea Schweitzer, Ph.D., U.S. IYA Project Manager

    October 7, 2009 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  19. ToGetherWeStand

    I am glad to see the president taking time from his busy agenda to foster scientific interest in young minds.

    GO OBAMA!!!

    October 7, 2009 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  20. Ernestine

    How cool i wish I could be there

    October 8, 2009 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  21. Beverly in NC

    What a wonderful idea to have a real NASA astronaut with the kids to look at the stars and talk about space and science. What better example for our youth than brilliant engineers, scientists, and a woman who has actually been an astronaut.

    Our children need to be exposed to true educational experiences versus nights of endless video games and texting.

    Great idea President Obama! I wish I could be there to see it with the kids.

    October 8, 2009 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  22. bravo

    What a great idea. It's great to have a Prez who does things like this.

    October 8, 2009 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  23. Lost in space

    Such a great article, as always depicting a concerned President Obama for the next generation of leaders for this nation.

    Giving them the opportunity to reach for the stars in totally breath taking.

    October 8, 2009 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  24. sara

    Open to the kids of America.........priceless

    October 8, 2009 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  25. Peter E

    Regardless of its prominent location, these inflatable, portable planetariums are a great educational tool in a country that has neglected, or even openly ridiculed science education in recent decades. I hope it inspires a new generation of scientists, or at least people to think scientifically.
    Let's hope people don't read too much politics into this just because of the location.

    October 8, 2009 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
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