Chicago Sidewalk Astronomy Club

Latin School Sidewalk Astronomy Club

IDA-Chicago Section

Watch our Video:
Dennis Interview:

Future viewing dates:
Call Cell # 312-659-0004

for location and

Email to be placed ou our email list.

 We usually view the MOON  4days before to 4 days after the FIRST QUARTER moon.
Sometimes we view the Full Moon.

Dusk until 10 or 11PM

We usually observe from:
North & Wells at Starbucks
Wells St. south of North Ave. on East side by flower shop
North Ave. & Clark St. at Fountain
Tastes & Fests around Chicago

on clear, warm, >40F evenings

We always need assistants, so come out with or without a telescope and help us!
We can teach you how to use your telescope.

Check out these links::

 International Dark-Sky Assn.

 SWAOG--Observer's Group



Chicago Tribune Article--2007

Sidewalk to Heaven
Published May 17, 2007
Barbara Brotman

    A glimpse at the universe can be a hard sell.

    "Hey, you folks want to look at the moon?" Dennis Erickson called

    A pack of twentysomethings kept walking. "No, thank you," one
    young man said in his best urban dismissal voice.

    Erickson understands. A bearded, gray-haired man wearing a pin
    reading, "Ask Me About Other Worlds," he knows that some people
    are hesitant to chat with a man with a telescope on the street
    near the intersection of North Avenue and Wells Street.

    "People, because of panhandlers, Jesus freaks and other people on
    the street, they're afraid to stop," he said. "Or they're so
    buried in their own life that they can't spare a few seconds to
    look at the universe."

    He tries to make his intentions and the opportunity clear. "FREE.
    FREE. FREE. See CRATERS of the MOON," read a sign hanging from the
    telescope's stand.

    This is Sidewalk Astronomy, a loose confederacy of amateur
    astronomers who take to even the most urban of sidewalks to share
    their love of the heavens, offered by Erickson on behalf of the
    Chicago and Latin School Sidewalk Astronomy Clubs. And this is the
    ideal time to check it out, because Saturday is the first
    International Sidewalk Astronomy Night, with groups setting up
    their telescopes around the world

    People who do stop to look through Erickson's telescope -- and
    over the course of a few hours on Wells Street south of North
    Avenue, many did -- get their socks knocked off.

    Through the scope, the quarter moon was glowing white, its surface
    a curve of craters.

    "Oooooh," breathed one man as he gazed.

    It was just the moon, the thing you can look up and see for
    yourself. But the view through the telescope was so radically
    different as to change how you think about things.

    "Up there [with the naked eye], it looks kind of symbolic,"
    explained Larry Keller, an Old Town resident who had just taken a
    gander. "But through this, it looks like a real thing."

    "You think of it as small and perfect, but it's not," said Loren
    Sampson, whose evening walk with her husband, Jeff, and their dog,
    Jerry, had just turned into a paradigm shift. "It's amazing. It's
    just something you don't think about every day. ... You take it
    for granted."

    Erickson, who teaches physics and astronomy at the Latin School,
    wants to change that. For 10 years, he has been rolling his
    telescope in a shopping cart from his Sandburg Village apartment
    to the nearby streets, most recently the pedestrian-thick corner
    of North and Wells.

    On this night, he had dog, Tycho Brahe, a beagle named after a
    16th-Century astronomer, with him as he invited people walking by
    to take a look. While they did, he offered some facts. The moon is
    a quarter of a million miles away. That brightness making even the
    dark part of the moon visible was called "earthshine;" it is the
    reflection of the sun off the earth.

    North and Wells is not Santa Fe. But even here, the moon and the
    brighter planets are visible to the unassisted eye.

    The sights could easily be better, Erickson said, if street lights
    were designed to aim light downward instead of sending it into the
    sky. He handed out fliers from the International Dark-Sky
    Association, which advocates reducing light clutter so that even
    urban dwellers can keep in touch with the universe.

    At this brightly lit corner, Sidewalk Astronomy was helping people
    keep in touch. A small, fluid community grew around Erickson's
    telescope as people stopped to look and talk.

    "From time immemorial people have been looking up to the heavens.
    Probably mankind's greatest accomplishment was sending man to
    another world," said neighborhood resident Russ Bright, who
    remembers watching the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing on TV.

    "I wish I could have dragged my son away from chatting with his
    friends online to see this," he sighed.

    Benjamin Kallen, 8, who lives nearby, didn't have to be dragged.
    He had been studying the planets and the moon in school, and when
    he realized what was being offered, he dragged two companions over.

    "And it's free?" he cried in wonderment.

    Loren Sampson was similarly struck by Erickson's generosity.

    "There aren't that many people that just want you to know what
    they know," she said.

    Benjamin looked through the scope, which Erickson had moved to
    focus on Saturn, its rings and one of its moons.

    "Oh! I see the moon!" he said. "Ohhhh!"


    Dennis Erickson will observe International Sidewalk Astronomy
    Night from dusk to 11 p.m. on Saturday, if skies are clear. He
    will set up his telescope near the corner of North and Wells. For
    information on viewings over the next months, visit