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Monday, October 10, 2011

Come Back For Jupiter


If you spend enough time on the streets of New York City and mingle, you are going to experience a depth and breadth of humanity that boggles the mind. Not only will you find an absolutely astonishing number of people with incredible talent, but likely, you will on occasion find the serendipitous meetings to be even more amazing.

On Saturday night, I ate dinner at my favorite local Italian restaurant, Trattoria Spaghetto (as mentioned in my story, Donato), conveniently located on Father Demo Square. It was an exquisite evening. Strolling out and through the small park, I saw a man with an enormous telescope, welcoming all to observe and partake in the wonders of the universe for free. There were no shortage of lookers.

Our master of ceremonies on Saturday night was Jeffrey Jacobs, who acquainted me with the organization, The Sidewalk Astronomers. Examples of "sidewalk astronomy" date back over 100 years. One of the popularizers of the sidewalk movement is John Dobson, who pioneered the design for the large, portable, low-cost Newtonian reflecting telescope known as the Dobsonian telescope.

The telescope was set up to observe the moon. However, I was informed that in approximately an hour and a half, Jupiter would be visible above the roofline of the neighboring buildings. Jeffrey encouraged me to "come back for Jupiter." I intended to wander, stroll, and return, but instead found myself drawn into the social scene that grew around the telescope set up for observing the moon. The time passed quickly.

However, this is New York City, and the evening would not be complete without upping the ante in some more remarkable chance occurrence. A man who, coincidentally, had also eaten at Trattoria Spaghetto introduced himself. Employed at Columbia University, both he and Jeffrey bonded over their mutual acquaintance and reverence for John Dobson.

Soon, Jupiter made its presence, and I was excited to observe it in a telescope for the first time. My turn in line came. I was able to see Jupiter's bands and its four moons. Jeffrey was ever the patient educator, helping each onlooker to identify the features and moons.

It was an exciting evening, with lovely surprises, chance meetings, and a fortuitous planetary alignment - just another miraculous night in what could easily be another episode in the series Only In New York or Sidewalk University, but for me, more appropriately called Come Back For Jupiter :)

Related Posts: This Is Not New Mexico, Back to Our Main Feature, Full Moon, Gothic Night

7 comments:

Steffe said...

You sure meet many interesting people. Nice write-up.

time traveler said...

Reminds me of the times that I've set up my 12 inch Mead telescope..If I had a dollar for everyone who stopped and looked through it I would not have to work anymore..I just love showing people around our galaxy..Great post--make sure you go back for saturn-a real gem..

Leslie said...

Wow, totally cool! Wish we could have a photo of what you saw through the telescope.
Is Jupiter that huge 'star' I keep seeing in the upper eastern sky after midnight?

Mary P. said...

Wish I had been there!

Kevin Gray said...

Sidewalk Astronomers? Love it. Would have thought seeing Jupiter from NYC (and its bright lights) would be impossible.

Thérèse said...

What a great evening!

Brian Dubé said...

Leslie - Yes, that big "star" is Jupiter.

Mary - He's around from time to time.

Kevin - actually, this is a common misconception. Every astronomer person I have met talks about what can be seen from the streets of NYC.

Thérèse - yes it was!