Astronomy on Tap, held at the Varsity Theatre on Feb. 13 allows people to learn about a variety of astronomy related topics in a casual setting. The monthly program originated in New York City, but has satellite events in cities around the world, including Baton Rouge.

Baton Rouge’s chapter of Astronomy on Tap was created by two astronomy graduate students; Tyler Ellis and Emily Safron. Their adviser, physics and astronomy assistant professor Tabetha Boyajian, was familiar with the Astronomy on Tap program and suggested they create a local chapter. Baton Rouge’s Astronomy on Tap held their first event March 2018.

Safron said Astronomy on Tap is a fun program for everyone, including people without extensive backgrounds in science.

“The whole point of it is to make space fun for people and to make sure that they know scientists are just like them and have fun doing the same stuff as them,” Safron said.

Ellis and Safron are largely responsible for organizing the event, but receive help and suggestions from volunteers, usually fellow graduate students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. At each event, two speakers give brief, informal talks on astronomy-related topics, including astrophotography, which was discussed on Feb. 13.

The speakers are typically professors from the astronomy department at the University. Safron said the professors are used to giving longer talks and are excited to give fun, informal talks. Outside collaborators from other universities and organizations have also given talks at the events.

Graduate and undergraduate students at the University have been invited to speak in the past.

Astronomy on Tap features more space-themed activities beyond just the talks. Past events have included games, musical performances, raffles and a panel featuring the two scientists who spoke that evening. Merchandise and astronomy related drink recipes are also available for attendees.

The event’s laid back atmosphere has attracted many attendees. Ellis and Safron said Baton Rouge’s Astronomy on Tap is one of the best attended chapters in the country. The events have about 100 attendees on average, many of whom are community members without science backgrounds.

“The manager of the Varsity says a lot of people like walking into our show,” Ellis said. “A noticeable amount of people just come off the street into our show.”

Computer science junior TJ Mathews attended Astronomy on Tap in November for extra credit in his astronomy class. He enjoyed the event, especially because he was able to learn about astronomy.

“I enjoyed the talks,” Mathews said. “I’m very interested in astronomy and new discoveries in space. I felt like the speakers did well explaining complicated subjects to people with little to no knowledge on the subject.”

Next month, Baton Rouge’s chapter of Astronomy on Tap celebrates its one-year anniversary.The next event will be March 13 at 7 p.m. in the Varsity Theatre.  

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