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Star gazing with the Obamas on the White House lawn

Barack and Michelle Obama, with Sasha and Malia, host a star-gazing party at the White House with student astronomers and celebrity astronauts.

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On a cool and nearly cloudless Wednesday evening, some 150 middle school students gathered for what is believed to be the first star gazing event ever held at the White House.

The floodlights that normally bathe the South Lawn had been turned off. So most of the illumination came from two TV light towers that focused on the Diplomatic Entrance to the White House, which is located under the Truman Balcony. The Washington Memorial shimmered in the distance.

Behind the crowd and to the right on the lawn were two large white inflatable domes, each marked with a large NASA insignia. The first dome had a sign out front that said “snacks.” Spread around the lawn in the dark were 20 telescopes, aimed skyward.

Astronauts as appetizers

The crowd broke into applause at 8:03 p.m. as Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon and Sally Ride, the first female astronaut, emerged from the White House. They stood with the assembled teachers and students waiting eagerly for Barack and Michelle Obama.

There was loud cheering at 8:07 p.m. as a casually dressed first couple emerged from the White House. The President was wearing a black windbreaker and grey sweater. Mrs. Obama was in a blue top and tan pants.

“Welcome to all the students and teachers and amateur astronomers,” Mr. Obama said.  In addition to those in the Fall sky, he said there were “a few other stars out tonight.” Then he introduced White House Science Advisor John Holdren, Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison, the first African American astronaut.


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