Impromptu Astronomy
A member of of California's Mount Diablo Astronomical Society
set up binoculars in her neighborhood last Halloween. "Oh! What a nice treat!"
(Credit: M. Berendsen)

A clear evening or the comment of a stranger sometimes inspires astronomers to share their passion for the sky with anyone around who is interested. Occasionally, these enthusiastic observers can't wait for a scheduled star party and take their telescopes out to show their neighbors on the spur of the moment. Their love of the night sky and their willingness to share their excitement with others characterizes these Night Sky Network club members.

Earlier this year, a very bright comet caught the attention of many. Mary Singer of the Spokane Astronomical Society tells us how she shared the beautiful, cold experience with some lucky strangers: "It was 7 degrees out and the last night to see comet McNaught. I was with 2 other club members, and before we knew it, 12 other people joined us and were sharing our binoculars-including 3 very happy teenagers."

The Norman North Astronomy Club was having a run of bad weather in Oklahoma this month. Eileen Grzybowski decided not to let a clear night pass her by: "We were desperate for night sky and our official observation was scheduled for tomorrow. The Clear Sky Clock suggested that tonight might be the better night of the two so the phone calls went out and we drove to our darker sky site and set up the scopes. They 'ooed' and 'aahed' at Saturn and were fascinated by a view of the rings. For an impromptu observation, it was worth it!"

Just this week, Joan Chamberlain of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England in Maine told us: "I came home to find two missionaries chatting at the table with my husband. The conversation came around to astronomy when I asked them if they had ever looked through a telescope. They began asking about black holes and wanted to know what was out there in space. Was it just a total vacuum? I told them about the gigantic clouds of gas and dust out there that is the stuff of star formation. I don't think they had come to talk about space, but by the time I finished, it was time for them to go home."

You may happen upon one of these observers in your neighborhood one day. If so, simply ask what they are looking at and prepare to be amazed. Don't want to leave it up to chance? Click here to contact your local astronomy club for upcoming star parties and more.