Winning the Triple Crown – Astronomy Style!

No horses named Sugarfoot, Lightning Strike, or Mom’s Lethal Slipper.  No crazy looking hats with flowers all on top.  No gambling.  So then if all of these items are not present, how in the world do you write an article about the winning the Triple Crown?  And why would an article about the Triple Crown appear in a newsletter regarding astronomy?  In order to win the Triple Crown, you have to be a winner at three key races.  That is exactly what happened the nights on June 14th, 15th, and 16th when we took our telescopes and gathered at our sites in Fort Greene, Floyd Bennett Field, and Great Kills those three nights.

Starting on June 14th with Joe Delfausse and my students, we had three telescopes pointed at Jupiter for a few hours.  One of those students was our spokeswoman Brianna who instead of shouting “Free views of Jupiter” for hours on end, made a sign telling everyone what we were looking at.  Now that she is graduating, the sign proudly sits in my office for future events.  To make it even better, Joe and I were joined by Otto and Cecilia later on, giving us five scopes to entertain the enormous amount of foot traffic that we had.  Someone was so impressed with our efforts that they came back with a case of sodas for the students who did the majority of the presenting that night.  Somehow the cake served at the parent meeting from Brooklyn Technical High School ended up at the stargazing party as well.  Not sure how the kids pulled that one off but, I haven’t heard any of the Deans looking for cake thieves, so we’ll assume that all is fine.  While the light pollution limited us to “just” Jupiter, it was still a complete hit.

Moving on to Floyd Bennett Field where our fearless leader Artie Kunhardt keeps our spirits up that the early clouds would disappear.   He was right.


The night would feature us viewing Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, M51, M57, and a whole other bunch of objects.  What we liked even more is that guests with telescopes that have not visited Floyd Bennett Field before were there – a good sign that more people were willing to make the trip by car.  We were also visited by a group of children and their counselors from a local youth group.  Thanks to Peter for taking pictures that night too.  We had such a good time that the time got away from us.  By the time the last telescopes were packed up, it was almost midnight.  Below are a few pictures that my first year astronomy students took of Saturn and Jupiter.  They swear that the pictures of Jupiter show the Great Red Spot.  I am proud of what they produced and their effort.  However, I’m not making any of their grades higher based upon what they did – no matter how much they plead with me.

Lastly, we move on to Great Kills with Joe DiNapoli and his crew.  Thanks to Tom and Rick, the astrophotography that evening was impressive.  While the clouds did put up a pretty good fight, M63, M13, M57, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, and the Moon did provide some viewing opportunities.  What I have always loved about Great Kills, besides the high end equipment and knowledgeable people, is the location.  There are families moving through the park and they are always interested in what we are doing.  This provides for great stories and teachable moments.  One particular boy who came to visit with his father stands out.  His name was Giuseppe and he’s 11 years old.  He has special needs and learns at a very different pace from other kids his age.  However, as I took him on a tour from scope to scope, his face lit up.  He made it clear to us that he loves science and what we had to show him.  Which brings us back to my opening paragraph.  Having had three nights on the road with my equipment and having run into so many fellow astronomers and guests, how can you not feel like a winner?

Thomas Evangelist is the Assistant Principal of Physical Sciences at Brooklyn Technical High School.  Feel free to reach out to him at [email protected]