AAA President Message – September 2020

Happy September!

As I sit here at my desk, fireworks are being shot off not far from me in Brooklyn. I am not sure why, or who is doing the shooting, particularly as July 4th is well in the past, but looking at the colors streaking through the sky, I find different thoughts going through my head.

One is of a friend who recently told me that the fireworks, which for some unknown reason have been going off incessantly for months now, causes him stress each time another one explodes in the sky. And then of another friend who told me that the recent spate of fireworks have been a bright spot for her as they serve to distract from a seemingly relentless march of negative news from around the world.

I also am thinking of the recent tragedy in Lebanon that we were told was caused by a fireworks depot.

And further cluttering my thoughts is the intended purpose of fireworks in the United States, which is to commemorate battles and a hard-fought freedom.

But alas, this is my monthly column in the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York newsletter, so why ruminate on fireworks? Well, this is why…the only way to see fireworks (unless you are in a very tall building or atop a high mountain) is by looking up. That to me is the most human of traits. People tend to look up when they are strategizing, or to figure out what shape a cloud has assumed. Maybe someone is looking up wondering if anyone is looking back at them. Regardless of the reason, looking up is what we humans tend to do when seeking inspiration. While fireworks in and around NYC recently have certainly been controversial, they still have gotten people to look towards the sky. People who have been trapped inside for the better part of this year and are unsure if and when it will be safe to come out.

But the allure of looking up has been, and always will be, pulling at each of us. In that spirit, Tom Haeberle and Faissal Halim, being the intrepid observers they are, led an outdoor public observing session this past week — the first to have occurred in many many months. Naturally, they did it in a safe and controlled manner, ensuring that all participants observed necessary safety protocol. And it was a complete success. Many members, as well as random passersby, came and saw the wonders of our universe. They did this by respecting one another, respecting the universe in which we live, and simply by looking up.

What better example can we hope to give to the world right now than to stand near to one another and look up in wonder?