Carl Sagan Day
annually on November 9th (since 2009)
Various other groups in 2009
Carl Sagan Day celebrates the life, teachings, and legacy of Carl Sagan, who was born on this day in 1934, and who is known for his many contributions to science. The day was created in 2009 by the Center For Inquiry in Fort Lauderdale, as well Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists (FLASH), and other groups. Events have been held in Florida, but also have spread around the world. Some examples of events that have taken place are star parties—where people come together and view the sky, astronomy lectures, science fairs, and workshops.
Sagan worked in many scientific fields, such as astronomy, cosmology, astrophysics, and astrobiology. He was known for his ability to communicate scientific ideas to the general population, and to get people interested in science. This is probably most exemplified by his 1980 PBS documentary series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which was the most widely viewed PBS program of its time. It won two Emmy's and a Peabody award, and has been viewed by over a billion people in sixty countries. Sagan also published a book to go along with the series. In all, Sagan wrote over 20 books, including The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence—which won a Pulitzer Prize, Contact—a novel which was made into a film, and The Demon-Haunted World. For 12 years he was the editor-in-chief of Icarus, and published 600 scientific papers and articles, in publications such as Skeptical Inquirer.
Beginning in the 1950's, Sagan was a consultant and adviser to NASA, and he briefed the Apollo astronauts before their trips to the Moon. He received countless honors and awards, and was a professor of astronomy, as well as director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies, at Cornell University. He passed away in 1996.
How to Observe
There are many ways to celebrate the day. You could watch Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, read the companion book, and listen to the accompanying soundtrack. You could also spend the day watching the series' 2014 follow-up, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, presented by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. When watching these you could get friends together and have a viewing party. Why not have a Carl Sagan lookalike contest at your party as well, and go stargazing as night approaches—possibly by going to a local observatory? The day could also be spent reading one of Sagan's books, some of which are referenced in the description, or by reading some of Sagan's articles from Skeptical Inquirer. Another idea is to listen to Sagan's last public address. Finally, if nothing else, go outside and look up into the sky and think about the expanse and wonders of the cosmos.