Astronomy on Tap: distilling heavy science talk for the rest of us

High gravity beers, low gravity conversations; AoT’s friendly, interactive astronomy series comes to Franktuary on Feb 20.

by Stephanie Brea
February 15, 2019

Photo: Heather Kresge Photography (


As you might recall, an if/then statement is a hypotheses followed by a conclusion. Here’s an example: If everything is better with beer (and according to science, it IS), then combining the educational bits of your high school science class with craft drafts is sure to be a good time. Pittsburgh’s Astronomy on Tap does just that, offering informal, engaging presentations by local (and occasionally visiting) professional astronomers.  


Photo: Heather Kresge Photography (


Helmed by Duncan Campbell, a McWilliams post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh’s local chapter was established in 2017. AoT is part of a larger organization that got its official start in 2013. Campbell has been a part of things since the early days of the New Haven, CT chapter, and really sees the value in unintimidating astronomy outreach events. “Satellite” AoT locations span the globe, from the New York City to Austin, TX, to Lansing, MI, to Los Angeles, to Canada, Norway, Germany (and beyond!)

Photo: Heather Kresge Photography (


What to expect at an Astronomy on Tap event…

Each event typically features three 10-minute, engaging talks, followed by a Q&A session. When asked what age range or knowledge base is required for attendees, Campbell stresses that talks are “designed so that someone off the street could stop in for a beer and understand them.” No extensive science background required.


Photo: Heather Kresge Photography (


AoT strives to break down and destigmatize preconceived notions of science (and subsequently scientists) as being boring and nerdy a la Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory.” Scientists are all around us conducting really meaningful work and maybe we have no idea. AoT speakers could be your neighbor from down the street (interaction level: wave at the bus stop), but you’d never know that they have a day job in dark matter detection.


Astronomy on Tap previously bellied up to the bar at East End Brewing and is now taking a turn at Franktuary in Lawrenceville.


Photo: Heather Kresge Photography (


Because the organizers and presenters are out there doing important science stuff, the events are currently held approximately every two months, with the intent to increase in frequency. They are kid friendly (minus the beer, obvs), and offer games with prizes comprised of “stuff astronomers happen to collect” (e.g., Hubble telescope pictures). Talks are free to attend, but be courteous and support the hosting establishment by purchasing drinks and/or food.


Photo: Heather Kresge Photography (


For Campbell this side project is fun because “as a speaker, I can figure out how to describe my work in a way that’s an interesting, engaging performance. As an attendee, the events are an opportunity to hang with my friends and drink beers.”


Photo: Heather Kresge Photography (


Astronomy on Tap Pittsburgh: Wed 2/20 @ Franktuary

Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Time: 7:00 pm

Location: Franktuary

Speakers / Topics on Tap: Dr. John Alison presenting on dark matter detection;  Jared Hand presenting on nuclear spacecraft propulsion; Evan Tucker presenting on exoplanets

To scope out future Astronomy on Tap events follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Photo: Heather Kresge Photography (



What to know about Franktuary…

They’ve got a diverse menu. Sure their “Pittsburgh” dog features a deep fried pierogi, slaw, creamy sauce, and fries, but they also offer tofu franks, gluten-free buns and all vegan items are clearly marked. New to the menu is the “West Virginia Slaw Dog,” inspired by co-owners Tim Tobitsch and Megan Lindsey’s new “50 Franks, 50 States” endeavor. Don’t like their topping combinations? They encourage you to build your own perfect frank. Return on a Wednesday with your stretch pants and take their new competitive eating challenge. Pro tip: Their fabulous corn dogs are never available on their food truck, so take advantage of the expansive menu in their brick & mortar location.


On a Tuesday night, it’s pretty easy to find parking in Lawrenceville, and Franktuary does have a couple of spots around back.

With a stop at Butler & 38th, the 91 bus will literally deposit you at the front door. If you plan on having a couple of beers with your blackhole discussion, as always, remember Lyft and Uber.


Photo: Heather Kresge Photography (



Franktuary (Lawrenceville)
Getting there
3810 Butler St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201, USA
More Info

Stephanie has been organizing events since 1998, starting with a series of motorcycle rides through the Arizona desert to support her father’s business. She’s probably crossed your name off a presale ticket list or served you a beer somewhere around town. An undergrad degree in poetry means she has lots of unpractical knowledge about iambic pentameter, while a brief stint as a copy editor for Alternative Press taught her that twenty one pilots is stylized in all lowercase letters. Wanna throw a party in a vacant parking lot? She’s interested. At the onset of COVID-19, Stephanie took on the role...

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