The Amateur Astronomers Association, in conjunction with the Urban Park Rangers, presents its annual Urban Starfest each year in the Sheep Meadow of Central Park on a Saturday evening in the fall. There is a rain/cloud date the following evening.

The Urban Starfest is free and open to everyone. It demonstrates the ability and perseverance of amateur astronomers and the general public to view the wonders of the night sky, even though we will be only a mile from Times Square! The Sheep Meadow is an open area, free of glare from local lighting, where almost the entire sky can be seen. Many club members and other amateur astronomers bring telescopes—some fairly large—so that they and the public can share the heavenly views.



Amateur Astronomers Association of New York
Sponsors November 9 Urban Starfest in Central Park

The Event: On Saturday evening, November 9, the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York (AAA), in conjunction with the NYC Urban Park Rangers, will take Manhattan on a tour of our solar system and universe during its annual Urban Starfest in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow.

Guests of honor for Starfest 2013 include: Sara Scoles, Associate Editor, Astonomy Magazine, Al Nagler, Founder TeleVue Optics, Michael Peoples, Adorama and Mike Dzurny, Meade Instruments Corporation.

The Sheep Meadow is an open area of the park, free of glare from local lighting, where the majority of the urban night sky can be seen. There will be telescopes of various magnifications and design, capable of reaching out into the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond. Come have a look at the universe just a mile from Times Square and easily reachable by public transportation.

The event will begin at dusk, when trained AAA observers will be setting up their scopes and determining their celestial targets. Guests are welcome to come early, watch this process, and speak with AAA members and supporters about telescopes, astronomical binoculars and solar observing equipment.

The People: Just as important as what you will see is who will join you on your journey to the stars. AAA publicly promotes science education and culture throughout the five boroughs. Its goal is to teach, educate, and foster a culture of stargazing and public science engagement. Member observers will take you on your first steps to understanding our cosmos. Those with more advanced knowledge will be able to discuss astronomy with their peers. For kids, astronomy is the gateway to the sciences. Seeing Saturn's rings or Jupiter's moons is a source of wonder and amazement that can dramatically change one’s perspective.

The AAA Urban Starfest strives to plant new seeds of curiosity (much like NASA has planted its Curiosity rover on Mars) — not just about astronomy, but about science, technology, engineering, and math. The supportive environment of this Central Park event is the perfect venue to meet helpful and friendly people dedicated to sharing what they've learned. Although observing the night sky is the focus of the evening, Starfest is about making new friends and talking to people about new and amazing things.

Each year, this event brings hundreds of New Yorkers together to share the experience of viewing the skies above Manhattan.  Intrepid AAA observer teams staff 15 to 20 telescopes and astronomical binoculars of various magnifications.

The Technology: Tele Vue Optics telescopes and eyepieces, Celestron NexStars, Orion StarBlasts, SkyProdigys, and more, telescopic guidance systems have progressed tremendously.  Learn and observe AAA members as they program their scopes to point to the cosmos. Sky Safari, Starwalk, Google Sky Map, Space Map — there are many excellent apps for phones and iPads alike. Watch as AAA members research targets and scout the sky with the latest software. CCD cameras, DSLRs set to infinity, there are many ways to capture images by letting in starlight.  Bring your own equipment and discuss imaging techniques with member photographers.

Our Targets: Our astronomical targets will be both near and far.  In our solar system, the cloud bands of Jupiter, its moons, and our Moon will be easily visible. Beyond, we will observe distant galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae. The sky is filled with opportunities each night.

Directions: Enter at Central Park West at 67th Street, walking past the parking lot for the old Tavern on the Green towards the Sheep Meadow, a wide-open space. Look for a table staffed by Park Rangers and AAA members at the entrance to the meadow.

About AAA: Founded in 1927, The Amateur Astronomers Association of New York is dedicated to educating residents of the metropolitan area in the science of astronomy. In addition to observing sessions in four boroughs and upstate, AAA sponsors a monthly lecture series, offers astronomy classes and seminars throughout the year, publishes a monthly membership news journal, Eyepiece, and provides a wealth of information on its website for current events and astronomical content.

Rain Date: In case of a clouded over sky or rain, Urban Starfest will be held the following evening, Sunday, November 10.

Keith Rowan wrote an excellent history of Starfest on his website at the College of Staten Island, and we have a copy in our Articles section.

NOTE: Parking spaces are all claimed. If you bring a telescope you can enter the park at W 67th street, unload your car and then find street parking.

Directions: Enter at Central Park West and 67th Street, walking past the parking lot for Tavern on the Green into the Sheep Meadow, a wide-open space where you should easily spot us. Park rangers will be there to assist.

Map of the Sheep Meadow

Photo gallery from Starfest 2011 
Photo gallery from Starfest 2010
Photo gallery from Starfest 2008
Background and History of the Event 
Photo gallery from Starfest 1995 - (First Starfest)