AMERICAN URBAN STAR FEST ---------------------- John Pazmino Amateur Astronomers Association 2002 October 27
[Abstracts of papers and posters presented at the 91st Annual Meeting of the AAVSO, held in Somerville, Massachusetts, October 24–27, 2002]
Over the last couple of decades New York City implemented, and continues to carry out, several schemes of eradicating luminous graffiti. One result has been the gradual recovery of the natural night sky. By 1994 the normal clear sky transparency over Manhattan deepened to fourth magnitude and has been slowly creeping deeper, until in 2002 it is at magnitude 4 to 4.5. In the spring of 1995, during some lazing on a Manhattan rooftop under a sky full of stars, several New York astronomers hatched the idea of letting the whole people celebrate the renewed starry sky. In due course they, through the Amateur Astronomers Association, engaged the New York City Parks Department and the Urban Park Rangers in an evening of quiet picnicking to enjoy the stars in their natural sky. Thus the Urban Star Fest was born. The event thrilled about 3,000 visitors in Central Park's Sheep Meadow on Saturday 30 September 1995. This year's Fest, the eighth in the series, demonstrated the City's upper skyline of stars on Saturday 5 October 2002 to about 2,200 enthused visitors. Although the Fest is always noted as cancellable for inclement weather, so far, it has convened every year, with attendance ranging from 4,000 down to a mere 1,000, this latter being under the smoke plume of the World Trade Center in 2001. Despite this swing in attendance, the American Urban Star Fest is America's largest regularly scheduled public astronomy event. Of course, special occasions, like comets or eclipses, can and do attract far larger interest both in the City and elsewhere. The presentation shows the setup and program of the American Urban Star Fest, to illustrate how the general public can actively become aware of the night sky and see for themselves the results of their very own efforts at removing light pollution -- and note where improvement is yet to come.