Bushwick native Kat Troche grew up looking at the stars. A member, these days, of the observing committee of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, she’s going to be at the helm of the Association’s latest new sidewalk stargazing location in North Brooklyn. After some back and forth over weather-related delays, the group has settled on a date in mid-May to gather local starwatchers outside the DeKalb Library on Bushwick Avenue. The group will also be hosting a stargazing event earlier in the month in nearby Crown Heights.
“I was a student at PS 274 and a regular at the DeKalb Library, which is where we will be setting up, and where I first developed my love of astronomy,” Troche told Bushwick Daily. A former member of the social media team at NASA, Troche regularly blogs about the stars and has much to say about what locals should expect to see in the skies if they choose to look upward.
“Typically this time of year, you can see Orion setting in the west,” she says, “just behind Orion, eastward, are his faithful hounds, Canis Major and Minor. Gemini, Cancer, Leo are up as well.”
But more ordinary celestial happenings are scheduled to take place in the sky as well.
“We should have the Moon on scheduled event evenings, along with double stars, star clusters and a galaxy or two, depending on how clear the night is,” she says. “If you are an early bird, you can see Jupiter and Saturn just before dawn.”
New York’s local Amateur Astronomers Association is something of a quiet institution — the group dates to 1927, according to its website. Popular among those pensively looking upward, the city’s amateur astronomers have persisted. An unattributed New York Times clipping in 1979 speculates that “new public interest in astronomy” could be the result of “recent science‐fiction movies and the spectacular photographs that have been returned to earth by spacecraft visiting Venus, Mars and Jupiter.” A regular source of fun for headline writers (“Scope of Activities Widens For Amateur Astronomers,” “No Red Carpet, but the Stars Are Out”), watching the nighttime sky remains regularly abundant as a source of extended contemplation. William Grimes, who writes obituaries for the Times these days, handily compares the sight of the moon to a prized print of Greta Garbo, but admits that “stargazing in New York is a little perverse, like surfing in Connecticut.” In the past, AAA events have been spotted in the neighborhood — including an outing at the Evergreens Cemetery in 2017 that we called “something different” to do on a Friday night.
Perverse or not, the activities of the AAA are probably most commonly observed at the High Line in Chelsea, where the park authorities permit a weekly presentation of “rare celestial sights” on Thursdays at dusk. The ongoing pandemic has not made it easy for the city’s amateur astronomers, and observing committee member Troche admits that the group’s volunteers “are still very leery about coming out with their telescopes.” COVID-19 protocols like social distancing, mask requirement, and contact tracing will be enforced at all events, she adds. On Instagram Live, Troche also runs the group’s digital ‘social distance stargazing’ events.
But this is the first time the organization will be looking at the stars on the streets of Bushwick; Troche says and she wants to make it happen here.
“I am actively trying to make this a regular site,” she says.
The first evening of socially distanced stargazing is scheduled to take place at the Dekalb Library on May 21st. But check in with AAA on Instagram to keep up to date.
Top photo: Google Maps/AAA
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