The Amateur Astronomers Association of New York hosts observing sessions, free and open to the public, one Friday night each month from April through October at Carl Schurz Park in Manhattan. Carl Schurz Park is located along East End Avenue at the end of East 86th Street. The park has a lovely view of a lot of sky above the East River, Roosevelt Island, Queens, and the Queensborough and Triborough bridges.
We meet on the park esplanade (John Finley Walk), overlooking the East River. The 86th Street entrance to the park is the closest to where we set up, though that entrance requires climbing stairs to reach the esplanade. One may enter the park at many other points, including 87th or 88th streets, thereby avoiding the stairs.
We encourage anyone wishing to bring a telescope or binoculars to do so, but it is not required. You are more than welcome to look through ours.
Contact Bruce Kamiat, 212-923-7021, for more information about the Carl Schurz Park sessions.
Please note that solar observing now takes place on Sunday afternoons at Conservatory Water in Central Park and on Tuesdays on the High Line. We also have solar observing sessions in the Bronx on Saturdays. Please see the vertical bar on the left side of this page for more details and for other AAA public observing sessions.
2016 Observing Dates
(These sessions will be canceled if weather forecasts are for cloudy skies.
Cancellations will be posted on this Web page.
Cancellations may be posted as late as 4 p.m. on the day of the event,
so please check here to be sure the event is on before you come out.)
See below for times of sunset
and starting times of these events.
All times on this schedule are Eastern Daylight Time.
April 15 — Starting at 8:00 p.m.
The Sun sets at 7:36 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon is two nights past first quarter.
Jupiter is high and bright in the evening sky, brighter than any star and almost overhead in Leo, just east of the Moon. Jupiter passed through opposition March 8. Mars rises a little past 11, closely followed by Saturn.
The Big Dipper, Cancer, and Gemini join Leo almost directly overhead in the early evening. Bright Arcturus is to their east. Brilliant Capella is to the northwest, and dazzling Sirius is to the southwest, as Orion sets in the west.
May 20 — Starting at 8:30 p.m.
The Sun sets at 8:11 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon is one night short of full.
Three planets are well positioned for observing this evening. Jupiter is still high overhead in the early evening. Mars, very bright (at magnitude -2.02) in Scorpius, is only two days away from opposition. Mars rises at 8:17, before the sky gets dark. Saturn follows closely behind at 9:05. That planet reaches opposition on June 3.
The Big Dipper, Leo and bright orange Arcturus are almost directly overhead. Gemini is in the western sky, and bright Capella is to the northwest. The Summer Triangle, with bright blue-white Vega, is rising in the northeast.
June 17 — Starting at 8:30 p.m.
The Sun sets at 8:29 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon is two nights short of full. It rises just a little before 6.
Again this session features three bright planets and a nearly full Moon dominating the sky. Jupiter rides high in the western sky. Saturn, the Moon, and Mars form a close triangle to the southeast.
The Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair is already high in the east. The Big Dipper and bright Arcturus are almost directly overhead in the early evening.
July 8 — Starting at 8:30 p.m.
The Sun sets at 8:29 p.m.
The waxing crescent Moon is five nights old and three nights short of first quarter. It sets a little after 11; but it disappears behind the buildings of Manhattan’s East Side before then, making this a good night for deep-sky objects. Carl Schurz Park is not a dark-sky site, though, so DSOs may be challenging even after the Moon leaves the sky.
Jupiter is only about 5° from the Moon in the western sky, following it down behind the buildings and setting at 11:28. Mars and Saturn are almost due south an hour after sunset.
The Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair approaches the zenith. The Big Dipper and bright Arcturus are high overhead to their west, descending as the evening progresses. Andromeda (with its “Great Galaxy,” M31) rises in the northeast along with Pegasus in the late evening.
August 5 — Starting at 8:30 p.m.
The Sun sets at 8:06 p.m.
The thin waxing crescent Moon is only three days old and sets at 9:42, disappearing behind the buildings before then. It may be too low in the west to see at all from Carl Schurz Park. This, therefore, is another good night to view deep-sky objects.
Jupiter is only 2.1° from the Moon on the sky, so it may also be obstructed from our view by the buildings. It sets at only 9:49. To the south, as we begin our session, Mars and Saturn are close together on the sky. They descend to the southwest, setting at 12:30 and 1:23, respectively.
The Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair crosses the zenith during the evening. The Big Dipper and bright Arcturus are descending to the northwest. Pegasus rises in the east, climbing up the evening sky—bringing with it, to its north, Andromeda and its “Great Galaxy,” M31. Cassiopeia and Perseus rise in the northeast. Besides the Great Galaxy in Andromeda, the Double Cluster, the α Persei Association, and other star clusters and deep-sky objects should be viewable. Carl Schurz Park is not a dark-sky site, though, so most DSOs will be challenging even after the Moon leaves the sky.
September 9 — Starting at 8:00 p.m.
The Sun sets at 7:14 p.m.
The very slightly gibbous Moon is one night past first quarter.
Mars and Saturn are very close to the Moon on the sky. This is an excellent time to view Saturn, as the planet passed through quadrature on September 2. That’s when the shadows of the rings against the planet and of the planet against the rings are most prominent, giving it a three-dimensional effect. Saturn sets at 11:03 and Mars sets at 11:17. Both go behind the buildings before that. The only planets then remaining in the evening sky are Uranus and Neptune—in Pisces and Aquarius, respectively.
The Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair still reigns, as it crosses the zenith during the evening. The Big Dipper and bright Arcturus are in the northwest. Pegasus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, and Perseus are climbing higher in the east. Relatively bright star clusters such as the Double Cluster, the α Persei Association, and the Pleiades should be easily viewable despite the bright moonlight. By 10, the Pleiades are high enough in the east for viewing.
October 14 — Starting at 7:00 p.m.
The Sun sets at 6:16 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon is one night short of full.
Mars is still visible in the south, but Saturn may already be behind the buildings, as our session begins. They set at 10:43 and 8:54, respectively. Uranus and Neptune are still high in the sky; but finding them may be a challenge with the bright light of the almost full Moon, which appears right between them.
The Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair crosses the zenith and moves down the western evening sky. Pegasus, Andromeda, and Cassiopeia are very high in the eastern sky as we begin, and directly overhead by mid evening. Relatively bright star clusters such as the Double Cluster, the α Persei Association, the Pleiades, and the Hyades should be viewable despite the bright moonlight. Binoculars or a very low-power telescope are recommended for the Hyades, which should be high enough for good viewing by 10.
Carl Schurz Park is located at the end of East 86th Street in Manhattan (X on the map below).
- Take the Lexington Avenue express (4 or 5) or local (6) to 86th Street. Walk east or take the M86 crosstown bus to York Avenue. The park is one block farther east.
- Take the Broadway local (1 or 9), Sixth Avenue local (B), or Eighth Avenue local (C) to 86th Street. Take the M86 crosstown bus to York Avenue. The park is one block farther east.
- Crosstown: The M86 runs along 86th Street to York Avenue. Walk one block farther east to East End Avenue. The M79 runs on 81st Street on the West Side and 79th Street on the East Side. Take it to East End Avenue and walk uptown.
- Up or downtown: Buses run uptown along First (M15), Third (M101, M102, and M103), and Madison (M1, M2, M3, and M4) avenues. Go to 86th Street and walk or take the M86 crosstown east, as above. Buses run downtown along Second (M15), Lexington (M101, M102, and M103), and Fifth (M1, M2, M3, and M4) avenues. Go to 86th Street and walk or take the M86 crosstown east, as above.