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 one Sunday afternoon each month at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park and on Tuesdays on the High Line. We also have solar-observing sessions in the Bronx on Saturdays. Please use the vertical bar on the left side of this page for more details and for other AAA public observing sessions.
One Friday Night Per Month
April Through October
(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.)
I’m sorry to say that, after checking several weather forecasts and the satellite images,
we have decided to cancel the September 1 event
due to the probability of serious cloud cover.
Let’s hope we are luckier for October,
which will be our last Carl Schurz Park event for the year.
See below for times of sunset
and starting times of these events.
All times on this schedule are Eastern Daylight Time.
April 7: Starting at 8:00 p.m.
The Sun sets at 7:27 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon is big and bright, three nights short of full.
Jupiter comes to opposition tonight, rising in the east at sunset, accompanied by bright Arcturus and Spica. Higher in the eastern sky as our session begins, the Moon shines between Jupiter and Regulus; Leo and Ursa Major climb toward the meridian.
Gemini and Auriga are high overhead as we begin, then they join Taurus and Orion in sliding down the western sky. The Double Cluster in Perseus and the Alpha Persei Association are among several deep-sky targets well placed for viewing this evening despite the bright Moon in the east.
May 5: Starting at 8:30 p.m.
The Sun sets at 7:56 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon is three nights past first quarter.
Mars, in Taurus, along with the neighboring constellation Orion, are low in the west as our session begins. They are hidden by the East Side buildings and no longer visible from Carl Schurz Park. The Moon is high in the southeast, passing the meridian early in our session, followed by Jupiter, now one month past opposition.
The Big Dipper and Leo are near the zenith as the sky grows dark. Gemini and Auriga are high in the west. Rising in the east are bright Vega and Deneb. Before midnight, the entire Summer Triangle will be above the horizon. Globular star clusters M3 and M13 are among the good deep-sky targets. Maybe give multiple-star system Castor a try.
June 2: Starting at 8:30 p.m.
The Sun sets at 8:22 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon is two nights past first quarter.
Jupiter and the Moon are in Virgo and quite close together on the sky tonight. With bright Arcturus in Boӧtes, and the constellations Ursa Major, and Leo, they encircle the zenith as the night begins.
By 10 p.m., the entire Summer Triangle is visible in the east, and Saturn is high enough in the southeast for good viewing, having risen at a few minutes past 9 p.m. The planet is just short of opposition, reaching it on the morning of the 15th. Saturn’s ring plane is now highly inclined (26.7°), making this a very good year for spectacular Saturn views. The maximum inclination of the ring plane is 27°. Over the next few years, the inclination will decrease, until we are edge on to the rings in 2025.
July 7: Starting at 8:30 p.m.
The Sun sets at 8:29 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon is one night short of full; so there will still be a little bit of a terminator, where the detail will appear three-dimensional in the telescope. It rose at 7:15 p.m. and doesn’t set until 5:12 in the morning.
Jupiter is in the western sky and will disappear behind the buildings of Manhattan’s East Side during the course of the evening. Saturn—a month past opposition—is in the constellation Ophiuchus and not far from the Moon on our sky. They are in the southeast as our session begins, and they follow the curving summer ecliptic path low across the southern sky.
The Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair climbs high in the eastern sky. Arcturus and the Big Dipper start the evening high overhead; the former descends to the west as the latter circles to the northwest on its way around the pole. Cassiopeia comes up in the northeast followed by Perseus toward midnight.
August 4: Starting at 8:30 p.m.
The Sun sets at 8:07 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon will be full Monday night and sets tonight at 3:13 a.m.
The big, bright Moon lights up the sky around Sagittarius; while Saturn shines one constellation further to the west in Ophiuchus. Jupiter, in Virgo, has already gotten low in the western sky as evening begins and may be hidden by the buildings to the west of the park. Jupiter still makes great viewing from our West Side observing locations, such as the High Line.
The Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair rides high, crossing the zenith in the late evening, displacing Hercules from its overhead position and pushing the home of globular cluster M13 down into the western sky. Pegasus climbs up the eastern sky—accompanied by Andromeda with our sister galaxy, M31. Cassiopeia rises in the northeast followed by Perseus. The Big Dipper, meanwhile, is descending to the northwest as it circles the pole. Bright Arcturus descends toward the western horizon. Despite the bright Moon, the Double Cluster, the α Persei Association, and some other star clusters and deep-sky objects should be viewable. Carl Schurz Park is not a dark-sky site, though, so most DSOs are challenging even without the moonlight.
September 1: Starting at 8:00 p.m.
The Sun sets at 7:27 p.m.
The waxing gibbous Moon is about 83% illuminated tonight. Well up before our session begins, it will set at 2:40 a.m. It will be full Tuesday night.
The Moon shines again in Sagittarius. Saturn is now at 0.4 magnitude—still a bit brighter than magnitude 1.06 Antares, nearby on the sky to its west. The planet is now close to quadrature, when the three-dimensional look of the planet and its ring system are most pronounced. Saturn is in Ophiuchus and will set this night just past midnight, as we gradually leave it behind in our respective journeys around our star. Jupiter also falls farther behind and has therefore sunk lower in the western sky, so we won’t be able to see it from Carl Schurz on the East Side. It may still be viewed from our West Side locations, such as the High Line.
Although autumn is approaching, the Summer Triangle still reigns over the evening sky—with its brightest point, bright blue-white Vega, almost directly overhead at the start of our session and the rest of the asterism crossing the meridian soon after. Pegasus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, and Perseus climb the northeastern sky while Ursa Major and Boötes descend to the northwest. By 10 p.m., the Double Cluster and the Alpha-Persei Association should be high enough for good viewing.
October 6: Starting at 7:30 p.m.
The Sun sets at 6:29 p.m.
The Moon is one night past full tonight, rising just as our session begins. Its bright light dominates the night sky. As with the full Moon, the glare through telescopic eyepieces may be such that neutral-density or other filters to cut that glare may yield better views.
Saturn is now low in the southwest, setting about 10 p.m. The buildings of Manhattan’s East Side may block it from our view at Carl Schurz. It still makes for satisfying viewing from our West Side locations, such as the High Line.
The Summer Triangle occupies the zenith as our session begins, descending toward the northwest. Pegasus and Andromeda, followed by Pisces, rise in the east, with the brilliant Moon right on the Pisces-Cetus border. Cassiopeia, Pegasus, and Andromeda—with our sister galaxy, M31—approach the zenith by the end of our session. Taurus also appears in the east, with the marvelous Pleiades star cluster high enough in the sky for good viewing by 10 p.m. and the Hyades star cluster (big enough on the sky to be best in low-power binoculars) following close behind. The brightest star in the eastern half of the sky in the late evening is Capella—actually the third-brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere after Arcturus and Vega—climbing up behind Perseus and bringing with it the stars of the constellation Auriga.
Carl Schurz Park is located at the end of East 86th Street in Manhattan (X on the map below).
- Take the new Second Avenue Q line to 86th Street. Walk east three blocks to the park. The Q line 86th Street station is wheelchair accessible.
- 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.
Cancellations due to weather will be posted on the AAA Google Calendar and the AAA Facebook page. You can expect it to be canceled if the clouds are thick or if it’s raining. Let’s hope for clear skies!