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for location and
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We usually view the MOON
4days before to 4 days after the FIRST QUARTER
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.
Chicago Tribune Article--2007
Sidewalk to Heaven
Published May 17, 2007
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
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
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!"
IF YOU GO
Dennis Erickson will observe International
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