Hear ye! Hear ye! Sidewalk astronomy is alive and well!
For the past 2 months of our summer season, I have been on a mission to educate the adult and especially the young adult population on astronomy and the night sky! The idea came to me by reading and learning about the legendary John Dobson who had invented the "dobsonian" telescope design and became famous for sidewalk astronomy in San Francisco.
In addition, being active in several local astronomy clubs and attending public outreach star parties and participating in joining other sidewalk astronomers, I had decided to go solo and set up my one-man-band (telescope) and share my knowledge of the cosmos with the public. The location I chose, The Bridge at Pawtuxet Village in Pawtuxet, Rhode Island, I became acquainted with by two other astronomy colleagues.
The Bridge at Pawtuxet Village is a wonderful and ideal spot to set up my telescope because the sky is open to the east and west. Additionally, it is a very public location on Main Street that brings lots of tourists in the summertime. It is also very nice in that The Bridge overlooks the water and there are restaurants galore! I make it a goal to setup at Pawtuxet Village at least twice a week depending on the weather gods.
It has truly been a wonderful experience in that I have met so many interested people of all ages who were interested and motivated in seeing the spectacular celestial objects I had in my eyepiece as well as learning more about the night sky, astronomy and even wanted to learn more about my astronomical setup. I even encountered a couple of UFO buffs!
It was encouraging to me that most people were friendly and willing to take a few minutes of there time to see something that they may have never seen before. Since I am a moon and planets guy and the location is light polluted, my celestial targets have been the moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. I really wanted to get the kids interested in the night sky, astronomy, my telesccope and, well, just to LOOK UP! Some people just looked briefly and said thank you while others stayed longer, asked questions, had length conversations and maybe took an extra peek or two through the eyepiece.
Many people were truly blown away of what they saw and some said - "You made my night" and that "Made my Night" at The Bridge in Pawtuxet Village. It was amazing, but not totally unexpected, how many people didn't know what those bright stars (planets) were in the evening sky. Education is Power and when it comes to the sciences like Astronomy, it is more important then ever to educate the public on the night sky, light pollution and nature in general. With the current age of digital and social-media everything, less and less people are going outside and enjoying nature and looking up!
It is my mission to continue my sidewalk astronomy as long and as often as I can because one person and one telescope can make a difference in not only our world and society in general but to be able to ignite the spark in one of our new generation kids who may then be influenced to pursue higher education and learn STEM, maybe go on to NASA or even become THE ONE who first walks and leaves humanity's first footsteps on Mars!