During the 2003 blackout that plunged the Northeast into the dark, hundreds of New Yorkers called 911 to report something strange in the sky. Terrified, people reported sightings of UFOs or an alien visitation. Light pollution had deprived them of the sight of stars for so long, they didn’t recognize the Milky Way. But even in a big city with bright lights, there are still great places to see the stars. By Sherry Mazzocchi.
Two Friday nights a month, Columbia University astronomers offer free public lectures on the latest in astronomy and then invite attendees up to the roof and look through their powerful telescopes. There’s nothing like seeing the rings of Saturn for the first time to make you say, “Wow!”
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This concealed Upper East Side park is off the beaten path. On Friday evenings, the NY branch of the Amateur Astronomers Association sets up telescopes along the park esplanade overlooking the East River. It’s the perfect place to investigate the moon’s craters.
At the Northern tip of Manhattan, Inwood Hill Park is quiet and dark. A slew of friendly astronomers head up there with telescopes on the first and third Fridays of each month for a star party.
Next to the Hudson, way over on Manhattan’s West Side, the High Line is the place to go on Tuesday evenings to watch the sun set and the moon rise. It’s also the perfect location to view the upcoming Transit of Venus on June 5, the last one until Dec. 2117.
There are tons of things to do during the day at the newly-renovated Floyd Bennett Field, and on Friday nights, local astronomers bring out their big scopes for anyone to look through. Located at the edge of Jamaica Bay, the location is one of the most magical places in the city.
The most dependable stargazing experiences is the Rose Center’s Hayden Planetarium. Whether it’s cloudy or cold, stargazers sit in climate-controlled comfort and gaze up at the heavens. The Rose Center also offers virtual trips to the moon and monthly Friday night dance parties under the stars.