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Why Sidewalk Astronomy?

With International Year of Astronomy as a vehicle to get out and share astronomy with the public, I chose two significant locations in the Tulsa area to schedule monthly sidewalk astronomy events at for our club.  The Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow was very excited to host us and RiverWalk Crossing in Jenks also was happy to give us space along the Arkansas River to set up and share.


It was two of these RiverWalk Crossing events that helps explain why.  You could call this astronomy at any age.  The first memory was at one of our first events.  A ten year old who has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a very intelligent young man who is enthralled with astronomy.  His mother had bought him one of those “600x” telescopes you see at the department stores trying to encourage his interest.  He was never successful at seeing anything through his scope.  They read about us offering Sidewalk Astronomy and brought his telescope down to our event.


After looking through our scopes, he asked if I could help him setup his telescope and show him how to use it.  Of Course!  After running back to the car and bringing his telescope with him, we take about 15 minutes to go through the setup, explaining to him the process so that he could repeat it.  We then swing the scope around to the moon and bring it into focus, as he looked through the eyepiece and saw something for the first time in his scope he shook with excitement.  Calling out to his mother to come and look!  His mother in tears of joy was able to share in his excitement and passion for the first time.


On the other end of the age spectrum at a separate event also at RiverWalk Crossing we were fairly busy with lines at each scope waiting to take a look.  As usual, our guests were from all ages, genders and nationalities.  As each would look through my scope, I would always get the WOW! remark and I would always reply with , the price of your admission was just paid.   An older gentleman after waiting for his turn stood at the eyepiece and just wouldn’t move.  No WOW! nothing but silence.  After five or more minutes (long enough for me to wonder if I need to adjust the dob) this gentleman stands up and turns to me with tears in his eyes.  Grabbing my hand to shake it in appreciation, he says, “I am 70 years old and have never had the opportunity to look through a telescope before, it is beautiful.  Thank You” 


I have only been involved in astronomy for three years.  I really have little interest in the science behind it.  I am an “OHHHHH – AHHHHH” astronomer.  Sidewalk Astronomy enables me to share that with people.  So that is why Sidewalk Astronomy.

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