To Boldly Go…
It could be as simple as opening the door to a strange room. It could be as complicated as unlocking the key to a new science. The urge impels us all to take that first step into unchartered territory. Sure, some of us would rather give others the initial chance. There comes a point, however, when human nature eggs us on to follow pioneers into a new land of innovation and invention.
That’s when we undertake The Quest.
The Quest. To discover the undiscovered. To explore the unexplored. To know the unknown.
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Why have the objects in the night sky so enthralled mankind? Over the centuries, the stuff of astronomy has provided everything from a means to navigate to the perfect romantic setting. Yet from the beginning of history, astronomy brought to our species a more important quality. Astronomy has become a method of measuring not only time and distance, but also an approach for appraising our own position within the grand scheme.
Imagine combining the factual awe of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos with the viral excitement of Fox’s American Idol – that’s AstronomyTop100.com! In 2009, we created an interactive web-site reality game that ranked the Top 100 Greatest Images and Imaginations in Astronomy and Space Exploration. The purpose of this virtual outreach project was to accomplish nothing less than to invigorate a passion for the stars and beyond.
Nominations took place throughout the spring of 2009, after which we began the Preliminary Round of voting. This round was a series of weekly voting opportunities allowing everyone across the world to rank their favorites among these eight categories: Ancient Artifacts, Discoveries, Engineering, Events, People, Popular Culture, Sights and Theories.
By the summer, we started the Quarter-Final Round of voting. We took the top five First Round winners in each category and asked voters to rank these forty until we determined the top 20 by the end of summer.
In the early fall, we started the Semi-Final Round of voting. We took the top 20 from the Quarter-Final Round and asked voters to rank them to determine a top 10 by Halloween.
At the Science Teachers Association of New York State Conference pre-meeting on October 31, we launched a massive PR campaign into the secondary schools and the public in general to encourage everyone to vote in the Final Round. In just six weeks, we invited thousands of professional and amateur astronomers, engineers and scientists and secondary school teachers and their students to vote on their favorites among these final top 10 candidates. In the end, we saw participation span the globe, capturing interest and votes from five out of the seven continents (as well as Oceania).
Finally, come Friday, December 4th, 2009, we tallied all the votes and determined the final ranking for the entire top 100. The announcement of the Top Ten Ranking was held secret until a live internet simulcast on that December day at the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s Strasenburgh Planetarium.
Since then, we’ve remodeled our site from a DreamWeaver-based survey machine into a WordPress-based book that, for the first time, reveals the final ranking for the Entire Top 100. Roughly each week (depending on the creative energy of your host), we’ll unveil the next Great Image and Imagination in Astronomy and Space Exploration. Stay tuned and next week we’ll start with #100. Can you guess it? We’ll give you a hint: He’s in the People category. We’ll give you another hint: As Dante wrote of him in the Inferno, he is “the father of all those who know.”
Do you think you know who he is? If so, put your guess down in the comment area and be sure to check back next week to see if you’re right.
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