As Saturn follows Ophiuchus over the Western horizon, so ends another season of observing and outreach at Lincoln Center. Every Friday and Saturday from spring to fall, the AAA hosts outreach sessions at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. There is a natural ebb and flow, with families and children early in the evening, a flood of patrons from the shows that pass through during intermission and when they finish, finally closing off with late night revelers wandering home or perhaps to another late-night event. People from all walks of life, all ages and backgrounds, look through the scopes. There are tourists, people who live in the neighborhood, college students, concert goers and more.
Some come by serendipity and others because they know that we regularly host events across the city. The most common question is, of course, “Is there something special happening tonight?”
We set up there not to seek the most pristine skies, but to paraphrase Willie Sutton: “because that is where the people are.” More importantly, we get to demonstrate that even from the center of Manhattan, you can see all kinds of beautiful and interesting objects if you just take a moment and look. The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn were constant companions throughout the season, and even in the center of Manhattan there are nights where they will handle high magnification.
Open clusters like M44 in Cancer and NGC 6633 in Ophiuchus hold up surprisingly well, along with perennial double star favorites like Alcor, Mizar, Cor Caroli, Alberio and more. Objects like M13 and M31 are faintly visible, but often a greater impact comes from telling viewers what exactly they are looking at. For many, it will be the first time they have looked through a scope, and it is always a pleasure to see their reaction upon seeing something they have only seen on computer screens and books.
In closing, I want to wish a warm thank you to everyone who came out and dedicated some of their valuable time, without your help and camaraderie the season would not have been nearly as fun. If you want to bring your scope and talk about space with people, or just want to check out the atmosphere, the 2018 observing season at Lincoln Center will start again in
April. Hope to see you there!