Music and Astronomy Under the Stars (MAUS)



Since 2009 the Music and Astronomy Under the Stars (MAUS) program has brought astronomy to 50,000 music lovers (800 - 5000 participants per event) throughout Long Island at classical, folk, pop/rock, opera, Caribbean, or county-western concerts in parks assisted by local astronomy clubs (55 events; 28 parks, 83% free, most festivals had low-cost admission and free admission for children). The Long Island based astronomy club, the Amateur Observers' Society of New York , is a partner with MAUS and has assisted with 48 of the MAUS events. MAUS also had events at the Central Park Jazz, Newport Folk, Ravinia music, the Tanglewood Music festivals and the Bethel Woods Center for 
the Arts (location of the 1969 Woodstock Festival).

MAUS combines solar, optical, and radio telescope observations; live image projection; large posters/banners (From the Earth to the Universe and Visions of the Universe); videos; and hands-on activities (Night Sky Network; Harvard-Smithsonian CfA); imaging with a cell phone mount; and hand-outs (with information on science museums, astronomy clubs, and citizen science projects, STEM education resources, and STEM careers) before and after the concerts or at intermission.

Yo-Yo-Ma, the Chicago and Boston Symphony Orchestras, the McCoy Tyner Quartet, Ravi Coltrane, Esperanza Spalding, the Stanley Clarke Band, Phish, Blood Sweat and Tears, Deep Purple, Patti Smith, Tony Orlando, and Ronan Tynan performed at these concerts. MAUS reached underserved groups and attracted large enthusiastic crowds. Many young children participated in this family learning experience, which is often the first time they looked through a telescope. MAUS obtained excellent evaluation confirming our approach.

While there have been many astronomy outreach activities and telescope observations at city sidewalks and parks, MAUS targets a completely different audience - music lovers who are attending concerts held in parks or at music festivals. Combining music with astronomy assures a large audience of people who have made a commitment to be outside at night for several hours. These music lovers who may never have visited a science museum, planetarium, or star party will be exposed to telescope observations and astronomy/space science information at no cost or additional travel. Based on these surveys, most of the people who participated in the astronomy activities did not attend a star party or go to a science museum within the past twelve months. The attendance at these concerts and festivals ranges from 1000 to 35,000 people per event
(800 - 5000 participated in the science activities). There were activities available to the public with different learning impacts depending on the level of engagement. For example, some people only look at the traveling exhibit/display and the information provided; some people may look at the astronomy information projected on the large screen; others will look through the telescopes.

MAUS targets all segments of the public and reaches underserved populations because there are concerts for all musical tastes, and people of all ages, ethnic groups, and economic status attend these concerts. Minority communities have been served by MAUS at concerts of ethnic music (Latin music, Caribbean music, Gospel music, etc.) and at concerts in parks in minority communities.

MAUS events targeted women and seniors. Based on statistics provided by Town of Oyster Bay Parks Department, the audience for the 2009 concerts were 40% children, 40% adults, 20% seniors, and 40% and 60% female (depending on the concert). Many parents attend these outdoor concerts and bring along their young children (3 - 10 years old).

Lead Organizations

Hofstra University; Dr. Donald Lubowich, PI




MAUS coordinated with the following Parks, the Parks Commissioners/Supervisors of local Townships, and local arts councils to select concerts and set up MAUS events:

  • Central Park NYC Eisenhower Park (NY)
  • Jones Beach State Park (NY)
  • Heckscher State park (NY)
  • Huntington Arts Council
  • Islip Arts Council
  • Town of Huntington
  • Town of North Hempstead
  • Town of Oyster Bay

MAUS worked with the following local astronomy clubs who brought telescopes to MAUS events and engaged in hands-on astronomy outreach activities with the public:

  • Chicago Astronomical Society
  • Amateur Observer's Society of NY (Long Island)
  • Skyscrapers (Providence, RI)
  • Naperville (IL) Astronomical Association
  • Northwest Suburban Astronomer (IL)
  • Skokie Valley Astronomers (IL)

MAUS worked with the following music festivals:

  • Newport Folk Festival
  • Ravinia Music Festival (home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
  • The Tanglewood Music Festivals (home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra)
  • The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

The Following Colleges and Universities assisted with hands-on activities and astronomer lectures:

  • University of Chicago (Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics)
  • Northwestern University
  • Williams College.

Astronomy Magazine and the Adler Planetarium assisted with MAUS events in Chicago.

Astronomy Night on the National Mall was started in 2010 with the co-sponsorship of the White House Office of Science and Technology and was located near a Military Band concert (2010) and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival concerts (2011).

The following organizations participated in the 2010 - 2012 events:

  • The American Astronomical Society
  • Chandra X-ray Center/Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • NASA Heliophysics Division
  • National Optical Astronomy Observatory
  • National Science Foundation Division of Astronomical Sciences
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (who opened up their observatory for this event)
  • Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers
  • Space Telescope Science Institute

Members from the following astronomy clubs brought telescopes to this event:

  • Astronomical Association of Greenbelt
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • National Capital Astronomers
  • Northern Virginia Astronomy Club

MAUS had a live Google hangout through



Effectiveness and Impact

Evaluation findings

MAUS received high ratings ( > 3.5/4 on all questions) from the individuals who completed the evaluation survey. Respondents enjoyed participating in MAUS, found the astronomy to be easy to comprehend, learned about astronomy, indicated a desire to learn more about astronomy, and reported increased interest in science. These results are significant because the respondents came to these events for musical entertainment, not for science education.

There can be little doubt that these data strongly support Music and Astronomy Under the Stars. All five outcome measures showed high ratings, with only a handful of detractors among the 726 survey respondents. Participants found the program enjoyable and understandable; they believed the program helped them learn about astronomy and made them want to learn more; and they reported increased interest in science.

What’s more, these positive results were broad-based. The program appealed to concert attendees of both genders, all ages, multiple levels of educational attainment, and all musical tastes. Concertgoers of ever color and stripe came to hear some music, but left having learned about astronomy.

Crucially, this program was praised by the respondents with little self-reported interest in science. Had Music and Astronomy proved compelling only to science enthusiasts, that finding would sharply limit the program’s utility, since these are the individuals whom are most likely to go to a science museum or take in a science lecture. But the data suggest otherwise; Music and Astronomy successfully reached out to individuals with little professed interest in science.

For this reason the program ought to be continued, and it ought to be scaled up. Music and Astronomy Under the Stars has potential to help a great many more people better appreciate science in general and astronomy in particular. Were this “take it to the public” approach to be scaled up into a nationwide initiative, its rich potential would be realized.

Museums and other educational institutions do laudable service in helping the public learn about science, but these institutions reach a small fragment of the population. By taking science to the public, instead of waiting for people to self-select for it, Music and Astronomy Under the Stars moves science education forward.

Responses to all five items were unaffected by musical genre. It did not matter what kind of audience was present: rock/pop, jazz/blues, classical, others. This indicates that genre need not be taken into consideration when planning M&A events.

One might predict that a science-oriented program such as Music and Astronomy would be more appealing to (and comprehensible to) concertgoers with an interest in science. To test that prediction, Year 4 participants were asked a series of questions the composite of which provides a measure of interest in science. The results were unexpected: for all five of the assessment items, there was no significant effect associated with level of interest in science. The Music and Astronomy intervention was compelling to those interested in science, unsurprisingly, but it was just as effective with people who reported weak or moderate interest in science. That’s a strong endorsement for Music and Astronomy, since the results suggest that the intervention reached individuals whom might not otherwise receive much science education.

Results in Year 4 were remarkably similar to ones obtained in the first three years of the project. In general, participants enjoyed the intervention, were able to comprehend it, reported learning about astronomy, and expressed interest in learning more about astronomy (and science in general). The pattern is one of consistent success. Music and Astronomy demonstrates the considerable benefits of taking science education to the public, rather than trying to induce people to go to a science museum or planetarium. Educators interested in promoting lifelong learning about science might well consider how the success of Music and Astronomy under the Stars could be expanded.

Impact statements

MAUS positively influenced the public’s knowledge of and interest in astronomy. The high ratings from virtually all respondents indicate that the gains were not restricted to science enthusiasts. The data support the conclusion that MAUS– bringing astronomy to people at musical events – is effective!

Many people said that they were pleased at this use of their taxpayer funds. People remembered MAUS from previous years and some kids remembered the science content.

Programs started by MAUS (Astronomy Night on the National Mall) have become separate ongoing programs and the Chicago Astronomical Society has independently arranged for a MAUS inspired concert of "The Dark Side of the Moon" in 2013.



Awards and Recognition

MAUS was Anonymously Nominated by a major US astronomical organization for The International Year of Astronomy 2009 Mani Bhaumik Prize for Excellence in Astronomy Education and Public Outreach. Only thirty submissions were accepted from 21 countries and nine transnational organizations. MAUS was the considered one of the best regional IYA-2009 program in the US.

In 2013 Music and Astronomy Under the Stars has been funded by a generous grant from the Long Island Sierra Club, which promotes science as a way to connect with our natural world.