Maria Mitchell Association Invited to the White House to Participate in Astronomy Night

astronaut WH



For Immediate Release


October 20, 2015


Contact: Lauren Berlin



Nantucket, MA – The Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) was invited to attend the White House Astronomy Night held on Monday, October 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. 

The event brought together scientists, engineers, and visionaries from astronomy and the space industry to share their experiences with students and teachers for an evening of stargazing from the South Lawn. The event also served to inspire students and stargazers from across the county to learn about the newest astronomical discoveries and the technologies that enable people to explore and live in space.  It is a continuation of the policy of President Barack Obama to expand access and opportunities for students and adults interested in the wonders of science and space.

The Maria Mitchell Association was invited to attend the event thanks to the support of U.S. Congressman Bill Keating (D), representing the 9th District of Massachusetts and Tim Madden (D), Massachusetts State Representative representing Falmouth, Martha’s Vineyard, the Elizabeth Islands and Nantucket.  The two worked together to ensure that the  Maria Mitchell Association was present at the event, due to the Association’s  rich history of astronomy research and outreach.

“The Maria Mitchell Association is a true treasure of the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Bill Keating.  “Their commitment to expanding the resources and understanding of astronomy, as well as cultivating younger generations of astronomers, cannot be overstated.  They have contributed greatly to Nantucket, our state, and all those who study and love astronomy.  I am so pleased they were able to celebrate our nation’s continued commitment to science education at the White House.”

Dave Gagnon, Executive Director of the Maria Mitchell Association, attended the event.  “It was an honor to be part of such a special evening at the White House.  For more than 100 years, since the founding of the Maria Mitchell Association, we have been a leader in astronomy and STEM education,” says Gagnon. “Our presence was especially poignant considering that Maria Mitchell was America’s first woman astronomer.  Our mission is consistent with the vision of the President to make science education a priority,” he adds.

The Maria Mitchell Association was founded in 1902 to honor Maria Mitchell and her advancements to astronomy, education and the natural sciences. Mitchell discovered a telescopic comet in 1847 that bears her name.  Maria Mitchell went on to become the first professor at Vassar ­­College, where she continued to teach astronomy until her retirement in 1888.  She died in 1889 and is buried on Nantucket.

The Maria Mitchell Association offers a variety of science programs for students and adults on Nantucket.  The MMA operates two observatories, an aquarium, a natural science museum, and also maintains the birthplace of Maria Mitchell.  A new Ecology Lab is expected to open in 2016 and will provide additional educational and research opportunities.


– 30 –