Andrew Fraknoi

Andrew Fraknoi
Contact Information
Organization:University of San Francisco, Fromm Institute
142 Dorchester Way
San Francisco, CA 94127
Phone Number:

Andrew Fraknoi is a science educator who is known for his skill in interpreting astronomical discoveries and ideas in everyday language. Fraknoi retired in 2017 as the Chair of the Astronomy Program at Foothill College near San Francisco, where he taught courses on “astronomy and physics for poets” attended by 900 students each year.  Now he is teaching short courses for retired adults at the University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University.  In 2007, he was selected as Professor of the Year for the state of California by the Carnegie Endowment for Higher Education. He has given more than 400 public lectures on such topics as “What Were the Atoms in Your Body Doing 8 Billion Years Ago?”

For 14 years, Fraknoi served as the Executive Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, an international scientific and educational organization founded in 1889. He was also editor of its popular level magazine, Mercury, and its newsletter for teachers, The Universe in the Classroom. He founded and directed Project ASTRO, a program that trains and brings professional and amateur astronomers into 4th - 9th grade classrooms (now in 12 regional sites throughout the U.S.). An offshoot, called Family ASTRO, brings hands-on astronomy events and games to families around the country. He still works part time as Senior Educator at the Society, editing an on-line column and working on outreach projects.

A prolific writer, Fraknoi is the lead author of Astronomy, a nationally-adopted, on-line introductory college textbook, published free by OpenStax with support from the Gates Foundation and currently used by 160,000 students each year.  (See: ). He is also the editor of two award-winning guides for teachers, The Universe at Your Fingertips and Solar Science.  He wrote two children's book on astronomy, Disney's Wonderful World of Space, and When the Sun Goes Dark. With Dr. Sidney Wolff, he was the founding editor of Astronomy Education Review, an on-line journal/magazine about astronomy education.

Radio listeners know Fraknoi as a frequent guest on local and national news and talk programs. In Northern California, he appeared for over 25 years on the Jim Eason Show and The Pete Wilson Show and now is a regular on the Gil Gross Program on KGO. He has also been one of the most regular guests on the Forum program (with Michael Krasny) on KQED, and is the “astronomer-in residence” on the syndicated Mark and Brian Show out of Los Angeles. Nationally, he has been heard on Science Friday and Weekend All Things Considered on National Public Radio. His TV appearances include The Today Show, CBS Morning News, and Larry King Live.

Fraknoi serves on the Board of Trustees of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, a scientific and educational organization. He is also a Fellow of the Committee for Scientific Inquiry, specializing in debunking astrology. A few years ago, he was elected a Fellow of the California Academy of Science. In 2009 he served as national secretary for the program committee for the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope. Recently, he was elected Chair of the Board of the Friends of Lick Observatory.

Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, Fraknoi has taught astronomy and physics at San Francisco State University, the City College of San Francisco, Canada College, and several campuses of the University of California Extension Division.

In 1994, he received the Annenberg Foundation Prize of the American Astronomical Society (the highest honor in the field of astronomy education), as well as the Klumpke-Roberts Prize of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (given for a lifetime of contributions to popularizing astronomy.) In 2007, he received the Gemant Prize of the American Institute of Physics, for making connections between physics and culture (Stephen Hawking and the Producer of NOVA on PBS were previous winners.) His “Physics for Poets: Everything You Wanted to Know about Einstein but Were Afraid to Ask” course received the 2005 “Innovation of the Year” award from the League for Innovation.  More recently, he won the Faraday Prize of the National Science Teachers Association for effective communication of science.  Asteroid 4859 has been named Asteroid Fraknoi by the International Astronomical Union to honor his work in sharing the excitement of modern astronomy with students, teachers, and the public.

Professional Information
Primary Forum:Astrophysics
My SMD Projects:

Astrophysics Higher Ed Community Collaboration to integrate NASA astrophysics content into the undergraduate classroom.

Project ASTRO through the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Resource guides on women in astronomy and multi-cultural astronomy with the Multiverse group at the Space Sciences Lab, University of California, Berkeley.

NASA Community College Network project at the SETI Institute.

Education Meetings and Conferences I Usually Attend Annually:
Science Meetings and Conferences I Usually Attend Annually:
My Professional Societies:

American Astronomical Society
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
American Association of Physics Teachers
National Association of Science Writers

National Science Teachers Association

My Publications (journals, blogs, products):


Astronomy Education, vol. 2: Best Practices for Online Learning Environments (AAS/IOP) Co-author.

Astronomy: The Textbook (with David Morrison and Sidney Wolff, published by OpenStax)

Solar Science: Exploring Sunspots, Seasons, Eclipses and More (with Dennis Schatz, published by the National Science Teaching Association Press)

When the Sun Goes Dark (with Dennis Schatz, published by the National Science Teaching Association Press)

The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 (Astronomical Society of the Pacific CD-ROM)

Science Fiction by Scientists (edited by M. Brotherton, published by Springer; features one of my short stories)

Building Red: Mission Mars (edited by J. Cannon; features one of my short stories)

Disney’s Wonderful World of Space (a chidlren's book, published by Disney Publishing)

El Universo a Sus Pies (with Dennis Schatz; published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific)

Articles for Educators:

An Ancient Universe (on how we know the age of the universe is much longer than creationists claim; with B. Partridge, G. Greenstein, and J. Percy): (an earlier version, with activities can be found at: http://

Astronomy Education in U.S. (a general, older review of the many arenas where it takes place): http:// 

Astronomy Textbooks, Used Book Chains, and Big Macs: A Perspective (in Astronomy Education Review):

The August 2017 Total Solar Eclipse: The Perfect Opportunity to Highlight Three-Dimensional Science Learning:

The Cosmos in the Classroom Conferences (symposia on teaching Astro 101):

Dealing with Astrology, UFOs…: A Guide to Addressing Astronomical Pseudoscience in the Classroom (in Astronomy Education Review):

Enrollments in Astronomy 101 Courses: An Update:

Insights from a Survey of Astronomy Instructors in Community and Other Teaching-Oriented Colleges in the United States (in Astronomy Education Review):

“Music of the Spheres” in Education: Using Astronomically Inspired Music (in Astronomy Education Review):

Obituary for the journal Astronomy Education Review:

Science Teachers as Community Eclipse Outreach Agents:

Seven Concepts of Effective Teaching:

The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures: Ongoing Institutional Cooperation for Astronomy Outreach:

So You Want to Start a Project ASTRO Site (Q & A on a program where professional and amateur astronomers are trained and assisted on how to adopt a grades 3-12 classroom):

Steps and Missteps Toward an Emerging Profession (Education and Outreach in Astronomy):

Student Aid: A Free Astronomy Textbook:

Teaching Astronomy with Science Fiction (in Astronomy Education Review):

Teaching What a Planet Is: A Roundtable on the Educational Implications of the New Definition of a Planet (in Astronomy Educat. Review): 

Training Young Astronomers in Education and Outreach: The AAS Ambassadors Program (a workshop and community to help early-career scientists be better at outreach):

Unheard Voices: The Astronomy of Many Cultures (resources for astronomy instructors on the contributions of non-European civilizations to astronomy):

Unheard Voices: Women in Astronomy (resources for astronomy instructors on the role of women in astronomy throughout history and today):

Why Should I Believe a Word of This? (a commencement speech on skeptical thinking):

Writing and Assessing Student Learning Objectives for Introductory Astronomy: Tips, Techniques, and What Our Community Needs (a conference report):