Thanksgiving for 2020

The Milky Way stretches over Frosty Drew Observatory during the Lyrid Meteor Shower in 2020 during the lockdown. Credit: Scott MacNeill

The Milky Way stretches over Frosty Drew Observatory during the Lyrid Meteor Shower in 2020 during the lockdown. Credit: Scott MacNeill

The general US tradition for this coming week is to think about your life and find gratitude for the better parts of your life. Considering the reputation that 2020 has garnered, it may seem difficult to find gratitude in your thoughts of the past year. It is true, 2020 has had its challenges, but there have also been some good that has happened. Though for myself, I have identified a real diamond in the rough, that is a result of the challenges of 2020.

When the pandemic really kicked in, we sent out a directive to the Frosty Drew astronomy team. The directive stated that we were going to try our best to continue to offer on site events to the public in a compliant fashion. The most important part of the directive stated that team members who are uncomfortable with being on site were not required to be there, and that Frosty Drew would honor the requirements and decisions of each team member. Responses to the directive were quite quiet and it left us wondering how much of a team would be available for the 2020 seasons. Closures, mandates, and lockdowns moved in so fast that we had to step back to let everything happen before formulating a response. Once this happened, we quickly developed a two phase reopening plan at Frosty Drew. Online first, then on site.

When we started to plan our online events, numerous Frosty Drew team members stepped up to the plate! Each performing nightly data collection activities from their backyards, decks, makeshift observatories, wood sheds, etc to build up a collection of high quality astronomical images to show on the next Friday night. Additionally, team members set up fabulous live production astronomy designs so we could bring live stargazing to our online events. Other team members formulated a broadcast platform that could service hundreds to thousands of visitors at a time, if necessary. Finally, other team members developed a moderation and engagement model, and actively managed all attendees to our events. All of this resulted in us being able to quickly respond to the closure, with live stargazing events weekly. All available from the comfort and safety of our visitors homes. We hosted our events to a weekly average of about 500 visitors tuning in.

During the time frame of online events, we were actively developing and engineering how we could reopen on site events to the public. The collective brilliant minds of our team members made this remote thought a reality! Our team engineered specific devices from household items to allow for safe viewing through our optics, developed flow dynamics to avoid cross traffic and allow for easy social distancing on campus, an active ticketing system that also doubled up as a contact tracing platform, and created a near contactless, outdoor environment for our visitors. This is on top of the regular steps we had to complete to become compliant with RI mandates. Though it was still unclear who would actually brave the pandemic and show up on site regardless of the potential dangers.

Week after week, numerous Frosty Drew astronomy team members showed up on site to service our visitors! It was astounding how many of our team members came out regularly and made the events so amazing for those who needed a place to escape to. Since our reopening, these team members continue to devote their time and risk to the Frosty Drew mission of “Enlighten, discover, inspire- through education and research- knowledge about science, the night sky, and the universe.” They do this regardless of the threats we get from the haters, the personal risk that the pandemic poses, the complaints from the angry, the demands from the entitled, the attacks on our character and reputation from negative online reviews; and they do it with a smile and the same enthusiastic attitude that have made Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center such an amazing place!

So this week, and beyond, I am grateful for being part of a team of the most amazing people I know. People who truly care about making a difference in the world, who care about inspiring the one that could be the first to walk on Mars, or inspiring others just to do great things. People who have so much empathy that they are able to see past the anger and bring out the best in others, a place where apathy has no place. This list goes on and on. At Frosty Drew we are grateful to this team, as we would not have survived this year if it hadn’t been for them, and I am grateful to have these people in my life.

As we move into Thanksgiving week and kick off the Holiday Season. Please consider Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center when Giving. This year has been very difficult for our favorite little non-profit, not just physically but also financially. We rely on donations from the public to fund our regular operational costs. Things like utilities bills, grass cutting, snow clearing, business compliancies, paying our staff, equipment repair and maintenance, etc. Considering how restricted we have had to be on the admittance of visitors to our events, our deficit this year is quite significant. Your support means the world to us and we are awesome because of you! If you have been inspired, educated, or just had a great moment with us, please consider donating during your Giving Tuesday, and/or end of year giving activities. We love what we do, and thank you so much!

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving from all of the astro-geeks at Frosty Drew Observatory!

Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Nov 25, 2020
Published Under:
Scott MacNeill's Columns
Subscribe to Scott MacNeill's Columns RSS Feed