Rene Gedaly was presented the Omega Centauri Award for "Promotion of Public Awareness of Astronomy" at the 2023 Texas Star Party. The award was presented by TSP director Ted Saker following "The Farthest Exploration of Worlds in History: NASA's New Horizons Mission," a talk delivered by Dr. S. Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto.
Rene's particular interest in public awareness is rekindling the love of astronomy women first discovered as girls. Recognizing that women need to see themselves as belonging before joining, Gedaly created the Women's Special Interest Group (WSIG), a social group as well as a club within an astronomy club. Events included Pizza & Planets, a telescope petting zoo, themed lunches out, and a year-long observing program at the club’s dark site.
During this period women members increased from below ten percent to close to 25% of HAS membership, and most of these new members joined as primary members, not associates. By happenstance and then by design, website content beckoned others to engage in astronomy relatively close to home. Girl scout groups, private religious and same sex schools, college astronomy clubs and community education offerings from Anahuac to Houston to Schulenburg found their way to increased astronomy engagement at our dark site or theirs. Rene was delighted to serve as the science field advisor to the club’s first official high school intern, a young woman who considered astronomy a “candy store” of science and who would go on to become a chemical engineer. She found Rene, president at the time, and the observatory through the HAS website.
Rene Gedaly is a past president (2015–2017) of the Houston Astronomical Society, a past operations manager for the Texas Star Party, Inc., and is a newly elected director to the TSP board. She currently serves the Houston Astronomical Society as Field Trip & Observing chairperson, lead trainer for observatory building and visual telescope operations, and coordinates the HAS Texas 45 observing program that she authored. She also provides content management, development, and support as part of the Web Technology team.
Rene Gedaly joins these previous Omega Centauri Award recipients who also remain active members of the Houston Astronomical Society: Don Selle, Will Young, and Joe Khalaf (2022), Daniel & Rebeca Roy (2019), Joe Khalaf (2017), Debbie Moran (2015), Larry Mitchell (2006), and Amelia & Steve Goldberg (1991).