265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 csf@cambridgesciencefestival.org

Reflection on Street Astronomy (Friday 4/15/2016)

Passion.
I thought for a day about one word that summarized my thoughts about volunteering with the Street Astronomy team (http://www.bostonastronomy.net/), and decided that passion bested simplicity. The premise of the event was simple: get together in the middle of Harvard Square with some telescopes and look at cool things in the sky. And it was effective. Friday night is prime time in the Square for families, friends, and dates, so there were plenty of folks looking to make the night a little more special. In the two hours that the team of astronomers kindly donated to the festival, we had two to three hundred curious minds expand through the four telescopes and a pair of binoculars.
However, it was not just the big boxes, expensive equipment, and experience that the astronomers brought out that night. I felt what made the night successful was their passion for the cosmos and sharing it’s wonders with others. One astronomer blew my mind when she gave me instructions on how to find a nebula with her binoculars. I was so impressed with it that I encouraged people from the back of the long telescope lines to ask her about seeing nebulas with binoculars. I felt that it showed the average star gazer that they did not need a big, expensive, motorized telescope to see marvels in the sky. But the telescopes did prove that a big lens makes a big difference. I can attest to seeing Jupiter and its four largest moons while standing outside of a coffee shop. Even the moon looked more impressive through the telescope.  It appeared so sharp in the scope that I thought it would cut me if I touched it.
One of the astronomers mentioned that he felt a special moment for a parent was pointing to something tiny in the sky and saying to their kid, “that’s what this is, but far, far away.” I saw a lot of those special moments, and I hope he and the others appreciate that they facilitated those and other unmentioned experiences that night. We went on to talking about how he got into astronomy, which basically boiled down to an addiction (he liked that description of it). It began with a small, cheap telescope, and then he wanted to see more. And more. To me though, I think his story along with what I saw that night revealed the self-perpetuating nature of the secret ingredient that makes the festival successful in the first place. That ingredient is passion, and sharing it is what lets it continue on into the future.
So please reader, share your passions.
-NLJ

 

1
These folks don’t mess around when it comes to celestial objects.
 

 

2
We briefly had to share our space with a street performer.
3
Yeah, it was pretty busy.

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