Sunday, April 8, 2012


Photos: Maggie Tobin
Viewing the night sky with telescopes and without at Dome Playground, Thursday, March 29. Councilmember Brad Lander, in top left photo, eyes Jupiter from afar.

People started coming at 6 p.m.: from 38th Street, right across from Dome, a woman, her son Zion, and a neighbor; a few families made the trip from Windsor Terrace or Flatbush. About 25 people had gathered by 6:45, but twilight still ruled, not darkness, and the clouds flitted across the sky, obscuring our view of the action.

The 3 astronomers—all members of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York—Joe Delfausse, Steve Stromer, and Rori Baldari, set up their telescopes, focusing west on the moon. Meanwhile, until way after sunset, the kids in the park—the cricket (bottom photo) and basketball players—ignored us.

Wasting no time, Steve Stromer ( lectured his captive audience about astronomy, telescopes, stars, baby stars, planets, nebulas, other galaxies, and answered questions. Some there were astronomy buffs. One man’s 10-year-old son had his own telescope. A girl, no more than 10, pointed out Orion and already knew about nebulas.

About a half hour after sunset, around 8 p.m., it was dark enough to see the open sky in detail. For the occasion, the sky stepped out naked from behind the clouds and gave us skywatchers a crystalline view of the heavens. People took turns at a telescope to view the moon: an enormous white, crusty surface smack dab up against your eye.

The night was amazingly clear and beautiful. Yes, you could reach out and kiss it. The kids were clambering all over the scopes, peppering Joe with questions. The scopes shifted focus to Jupiter, where by squinting you could make out its tiny moons. (Councilmember Lander saw all four!) To the south was Mars, flaring, red, vibrating, burning—and doing it just above and beyond the Dome basketball court!

If you missed this event, never fear. The astronomers plan to be at Prospect Park and elsewhere in April and throughout the summer. Their schedule is available here:

Steve Stromer is hosting a film showing at the Tea Lounge on Tuesday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m. of "The City Dark," with telescopes available: And they might return for another night of stargazing at Dome Playground this summer.