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Happy 25, ‘StarDate’

Happy 25, 'StarDate'

“Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb was a hit, along with Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” On TV, “All in the Family” and “The Muppet Show” were big. The median U.S. home price was $55,700. Jimmy Carter was president.
Also in 1978, 25 years ago this fall, “StarDate” went on the air. The daily two-minute program about astronomy and space is produced by the University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory. The producers say it is the longest-lived nationally broadcast science module on U.S. radio. It has about 400 affiliates, roughly divided between commercial and public stations.
According to a chronology from the observatory, “StarDate” began as a telephone message service in 1977, then went on the air in Austin as a daily radio program called “Have You Seen the Stars Tonight?” A grant from the National Science Foundation helped bring it to national distribution in 1978 as “StarDate” with writer/producer Deborah Byrd and announcer Joel Block.
Writer/producer Damond Benningfield joined in 1991. Sandy Wood now handles announcing. The executive producer is Sandra Preston. The program is recorded at Tequila Mockingbird studios in Austin by engineer Shayna Levin.
StarDate magazine preceded the radio program by five years. There now are Spanish and German radio programs, a Web site and education materials as well.
Appropriately, the producers have figured out that their initial programs, traveling at the speed of light through space, are just now reaching a suspected planet circling the star Vega, part of the constellation Lyra, the harp.

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