Can you believe that our premier annual event Autumn Starfest is already in its 23rd year? Did you know that the first “New York City Urban Starfest” took place in 1995? Did you further know on that date that the newly appointed acting director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil DeGrasse Tyson offered some opening remarks?
The history of the club’s biggest star party is a rich one indeed, and I urge everyone to read the article, “NYC Urban Starfest – Background & History of the Event”, to learn more about this annual event.
In keeping with our long-standing tradition, Autumn Starfest 2018 was held in the large open space of the Sheep Meadow. Despite a poor forecast, 23 club observers set up their telescopes in our standard arc formation, making quite an impressive array.
Our team of field volunteers clad in AAA t-shirts were present to hand out glow sticks, gift bag items, assist the general public, and help with set up and take down. We estimate that well over 300 people attended the event, which included a great line up of guest speakers such as Dr. Franck Marchis, Senior Planetary Astronomer at SETI, and the venerable Al Nagler, founder of Televue Optics. Keeping up with another Starfest tradition, Al once again generously donated a Televue eyepiece for our raffle. AAA observer Omri Elisha won the Televue eyepiece and Isabel Wolter won the Celestron Scope. AAA member Josh Berman read a poem based on the Drake Equation, which was a tribute to Frank Drake, and astrophotography group member Preston Stahly produced a fantastic video using member photos set against a great musical soundtrack.
Although we were prepared to run an enjoyable event under an overcast sky, to everyone’s delight, there were enough breaks in the clouds to see the Moon, Mars, Saturn and the Summer Triangle for parts of the evening. And if that wasn’t enough, we saw the Ring Nebula, the deep sky object also known as M57. How, might you ask, was such an object visible under light polluted skies? Enter the Enhanced Vision Scope, better known as eVScope, about to be produced for amateur astronomers by Unistellar Optics. Our main guest speaker Dr. Marchis, gave a demonstration with this telescope which utilizes enhanced vision technology to collect the light from dim objects, allowing them to become visible and in color, under city skies. We’re all pretty excited about this new telescope and look forward to its debut sometime next year.
So the moral of the story is, COME TO STARFEST! Whether you volunteer or just attend as a guest. You’re pretty much guaranteed a wonderful evening of astronomical fun.