Monday, September 08, 2008

Urban Starfest 2008

Session name: 20080907.1915

Cheers to the Amateur Astronomers Association (AAA) and the Urban Park Rangers for hosting Urban Starfest 2008.

The New York City astronomy community and sidewalk naturalists assembled for our annual urban Star Party at Sheep Meadow in Central Park. A hearty turn out of optics that ranged from 12.5" reflectors to 3" refractors and tripod-mounted bins managed to satisfy the visiting public. I contributed eyepiece views from the Teleport scope and Takahashi binoculars. I was lucky to have George H. - another Teleport owner - give his time to guide the people with observing suggestions, encourage them to describe what they see, point out Callisto's shadow transit, describe how that is, react to their enthusiasm, and manage the scope by re-centering the object. All that began shirtly after arriving with Jupiter in the twilight to other objects like Albireo, M13, and the galactic nuclei of M31 & M32. Many of us saw two very different jovian shadow transits bookmarking the event from 7:30 ~ 10:00.

While George handled the scope I managed the Tak bins & tripod which offered a "lighter" view of the heavens. The intent was to contrast the big optics with small portable optics with a more convenient viewing experience: two eyes and objects appear the same with our without optics; and, to emphasize that a desore to look is more important than the big glass. Our first quarter Moon (missed another opporunity for Purbach Cross!), Neptune, and Double Cluster were featured in these eyepieces.

The convenience of the size, weight, and flexibility of the tripod and bins allows the setup to be custom fitted for the observer in seconds. With a little patience, children standing 3' tall to adults twice that size can equally stand at the eyepieces taking in sunlight refelected off the Moon or any other object that was in its sights.

I cringe thinking that this is a once a year event. We have a great community of persons, thoughtful, caring, and giving. It's demonstrated in the way these good folks interact with people, like Craig building a human solar system or offering sky tour lectures at the tip of the green laser, while they wait to look through a telescope. To see the excitement and enthusiasm of the public is rewarding. It's nice to think that we ignited an an interest. That we made a difference. Let's do it more often.

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