AidSpace Blog

Jumping In Tweet First

Posted on

On Saturday, March 19, I was thrilled to participate in the first ever Sun-Earth Day Tweetup organized by the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center. It was also the first time the Smithsonian officially participated in a Tweetup. The event was a great opportunity to give twitter fans (aka “tweeps”) some face-to-face interaction with our research scientists, curators and educators, and provide some fun hands-on learning that illustrated the Sun-Earth connection.

We had discussed the idea of holding a Tweetup at the National Air and Space Museum for some time, so when Aleya Van Doren at NASA Goddard asked our Museum to participate in the Sun-Earth Day Tweetup, it was  a no-brainer for me and co-host Isabel Lara in our Office of Communications. We jumped at the opportunity to partner with NASA, learn from their experience, and meet some great Twitter fans. Museum educators, scientists, and volunteers were eager to participate as well, and we enlisted two of our social media friends at the Smithsonian, Sarah Banks (National Museum of Natural History) and Sarah Taylor (Public Affairs), to help us host.

On the big day, 100 Tweetup participants and NASA Goddard team members arrived at the Museum before we opened to the public.  Usually, this is a quiet time in the Museum, but that day there was a great deal of activity as staff and volunteers prepared for the Kites of Asia Family Day.  After watching the “3D SUN” IMAX film (as perhaps the first group of theater patrons ever encouraged to use our phones – we had to tweet, after all!), everyone split up into groups and took off to explore learning stations setup around the Museum.

RT JoeCLucas: Watching the surface of the sun in 3D on an IMAX screen. Freaking awesome. #nasatweetup#sed2011

The pace was very fast as we moved through the activities. Educator Dr. Steve Williams described Galileo’s observations of the Sun some 400 years ago, and showed copies of his original drawings, which are in the Smithsonian collection. Participants were able to touch a 4.6 billion year old Allende meteorite, leftover debris from the formation of the solar system. Astronomy curator Dr. David DeVorkin talked about telescopic observations of the Sun made from the Skylab Orbital Workshop in the 1970s, and the legacy of Skylab’s Apollo Telescope Mount in today’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Planetary geologist Sharon Wilson Purdy described her work on the Mars HiRISE mission and explained the role of the Sun in studying seasonal and global climate change on Mars. Tweeps got a chance to view the Sun through three different telescopes outside by our Public Observatory.  The forecast had been for cloudy skies all week, so we were relieved when Saturday came and the skies were clear. The viewing of sun spots and solar prominences was great!  Our three astronomy educators Katie Moore, Erin Braswell, and Shelley Witte, and volunteer Heather Goss, were all on hand to answer questions.  Tweeps were excited to learn one of the telescopes they were looking through was a real Dobsonian telescope built by amateur astronomer John Dobson in 1988. Everyone was tweeting the experience and sharing photos using the #sed2011 and #NASATweetup hash tags.

RT @chaalz: Just touched a rock that was created before our solar system was created. #NASATweetup#SED2011

A Tweetup participant views the Sun through an original Dobsonian telescope. Photo by Todd Stowell.

RT: @pilotconway: Saw some sun spots. So cool. #sed2011#nasatweetup


Tweetup participants could view solar prominences through two telescopes. This image of the Sun’s chromosphere was taken through one of the telescopes at the Public Observatory that day. Image by Shelley Witte.

Last but not least, tweeps took a quick tour of Museum highlights led by our knowledgeable volunteer docents, many of whom are pilots, engineers, or scientists and have had amazing careers in the aviation and space industry. Days before the event, I told them not to worry if the group was looking down at their phones a lot; it just means they’re telling everyone about the cool things they’re learning on their tours!  Participants saw objects representing early powered flight to landing humans on the Moon and beyond, including the 1903 Wright FlyerSpirit of St. LouisMoon rockApollo 11 Command Module Columbia, and SpaceShipOne.

RT @CG____: Amazing. Only 66 years elapsed between Wright Bros flight and landing on the moon. #NASATweetup @airandspace

RT @adcunningham: Do you want to inspire a kid today? Bring him/her to @airandspace#sed2011#nastweetup

All of the Tweetup participants were friendly and fun, but I have to say I have a particular fondness for NASA SDO’s BFF Camilla Corona SDO (aka @Camilla_SDO). She was a big hit with tweeps and visitors alike, posing beside many of our most famous objects and tweeting photos and fun historical facts.

Camilla checks out sun spots on the monitor connected to one of the telescopes at the Public Observatory. Photo by Camilla Corona SDO.


The entire morning was buzzing with excitement. There was plenty of sharing going on, not just among the Tweetup participants, but also via @NASA and others who were following on Twitter.  So much so that at one point, we discovered, @airandspace and @Camilla_SDO were trending on Twitter in the DC region. In the end, we all had a great time, learned and shared a lot, and we made a lot of new friends. Before the Tweetup group left to return to NASA Goddard, they posed for a photo outside the Museum.

NASA Goddard Sun Earth Day Tweetup participants and Smithsonian hosts. Photo by Mark Avino.

RT @Smithsonian: Group photo of super fun tweeps who came to @airandspace for the #sed2011#NASATweetup. Enjoy @nasagoddard!

RT @bsettlemyer‎ My fave was probably the solar telescopes. But the description of galileo telescope and drawing was interesting too. #NASATweetup #SED2011

Sarah Banks and I were also able to attend the NASA Goddard portion of the Tweetup, where participants watched a NASA EDGE webcast and toured the NASA Goddard facilities, meeting many of the scientists and engineers working on missions like Solar Dynamics Observatory (@NASA_SDO), Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (@LRO_NASA) and more.  The NASA Goddard team produced an amazing event and we were so glad to be a part of it.

What’s next? I’m eager to see the Smithsonian host Tweetups to engage more directly with Twitter followers and provide some great behind-the-scenes access to our experts and collections. My Tweetup co-host Isabel and I are actively planning an official Tweetup at the National Air and Space Museum. Stay tuned and follow @airandspace on Twitter for more info!  Also, look for the Public Observatory to start tweeting soon!

Would you like to participate in a National Air and Space Museum Tweetup?  What would you like to see?  Help us plan by sharing your thoughts!

Vicki Portway is Chair of the Web & New Media Division in Collections and Curatorial Affairs at the National Air and Space Museum.

Share:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon

Tags: , , , , ,

6 thoughts on “Jumping In Tweet First

  1. Thank you everyone for making the Sun-Earth Day 2011 Tweetup such a great experience! The Air and Space Museum was a fantastic host and I not only enjoyed seeing some of my A&S Museum friends again, but meeting more of new friends there. One of my favorite parts was the Public Observatory, where we all got a chance to look through a telescope at the Sun. Now I get to do that every day as part of my function – but for so many people, seeing the Sun through a safe telescope is a first! And it’s a humbling experience. Thank you Katie Moore, Erin Braswell, Shelley Witte, and Heather Gross for providing visitors with the opportunity to see the Sun and learn about this beautiful ball of gas, we call the Source of Life.

    I was very proud of the NASA Sun-Earth Day and the NASA SDO Team. Not only for recognizing that partnerships open new windows of opportunities, but for making us all grow even further. By teaming up we learn more, we get to work together and we get to share the passion together. Aleya and Marth, Elaine and Troy – thank you for your support and thank you for realizing that we haven’t even touched the surface of the potential we have with Social Media.

    I also want to thank the wonderful people who attended this fun Sun-Earth Day Tweetup and travelled from far away to be with us. Many of them I had known from previous Tweetups and many I had only known via Twitter. Some I hadn’t known at all. Every single one holds a special place in my heart because of the excitement they showed, the passion they have and the inspiration they can be.

    I will continue to be collaborating with the great people at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and over the next few months there are already two events I will be part of. igniteSmithsonian on April 11 and Become a Pilot Family Day on June 18. And guess what? I am thrilled to be there, learn more, share more and get even more inspired! I hope to see you at one of these two events! Come say Hi and let’s take a picture together. I do not bite.

    Let’s all continue to be an inspiration. Not only to each other but let’s make it a point to inspire somebody close. April is Astronomy Month. Take your kid, your nephew or your neighbor’s son and visit a museum, an observatory or just take them out to look at the night sky. Be an inspiration! Provide somebody with the “Wow” feeling the same way NASA and the Air and Space Museum continue to “wow” me!

  2. It was an extraordinary adventure to attend NASA Sun-Earth Day 2011. I was thrilled to be a part of it. Thank you to everyone!

  3. I agree with Angela! It was an amazing opportunity to participate in the SED2011 Tweetup. Starting the day at NASM with guided tours and solar observing was just what I needed to open my mind (and eyes) for what would become a day of awe and inspiration.

  4. Let’s all continue to be an inspiration. Not only to each other but let’s make it a point to inspire somebody close. April is Astronomy Month. Take your kid, your nephew or your neighbor’s son and visit a museum, an observatory or just take them out to look at the night sky. Be an inspiration! Provide somebody with the “Wow” feeling the same way NASA and the Air and Space Museum.

  5. Pingback: What’s Up for March? Solar & Mercury views! | Uses of Solar Power

  6. Wow, what a great idea for a Tweetup! I am not local so can’t attend your events. But, I did have a great time communicating with astronauts via Twitter on the Space Shuttle. This looks like an excellent program, and it’s great that you’re including kids. It’s nice to see NASA involving the public like this.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 × = seven