John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2013 July 13
    I got a phone call from Dr Neil Tyson, Hayden Planetarium, in 
December 2012. I took it as merely the next in a routine dialog I have 
with the astronomy world. This call was a bit different. 
    He asked if I knew about 'insap'. I misheard him, so he spelled 
out. No, I didn't know what an insap is. 
    He explained that INSAP, in caps, stands for 'Inspiration of 
astronomical phenomena', a conference that brings together astronomers 
and culturalists in a dialog to showcase how society, and culture and 
arts are inspired by astronomy activity. INSAP meets every three or so 
years in various places around the world. This 2013 round is its 8th 
and is sometimes called INSAP-8 or INSAP-VIII. 
    It In 2013 it, at his invite, comes to New York. Tyson is chair of 
the local committee to work with the conference's international 
committee in run the conference. He needed cosponsors besides just the 
American Museum of Natural History, the host facility. 
    Neil asked if NYSkies Astronomy Inc can be a cosponsor! It could 
give representation of home, or independent, astronomy to the 
conference being that New York is a world center for such astronomy! 
    NYSkies participates in many astronomy conventions, some in other 
towns. We are a partner with Earth Day and World Science Festival in 
New York and a supporter of North East Astronomy Forum in Suffern NY. 
We do not actually operate these events but do play substantial role 
in furthering them. 
    Neil noted that for this INSAP meeting NYSkies would help with 
advice and guidance about the City, work on early planning of the 
program, review and comment on proposed presentations. And it would 
have for itself a major segment of the procedings to take the INSAP 
delegates thru Grand Central Terminal to inspect its astronomy-related 
    This request to be a cosponsor was an honor! NYSkies accepted and 
took part in a telephone conference with the other members of the 
local committee in March 2013. There were then about six local 
astronomers and culturalists, besides Dr Tyson in the convo. We 
acquainted ourselfs and discussed ways to run the programs. Many 
features were still unsettled, like the number of included meals and 
amount of time to view posters and artwork. 
    Since then we corresponded almost entirely by email, with a couple 
point-to-point telephone calls. Papers and documents were exchanged 
by files in the emails. As it turned out, just about the only 
'published' item for the conference was a neatly printed program guide 
issued at the conference. Everything else was in the INSAP website. 
American Museum of Natural History 
    All procedings were in the American Museum of Natural History, 
except the Grand Central Terminal tours and viewing of Manhattanhenge. 
The latter was part of a public Hayden Planetarium show about 
Manhattanhenge with viewing outside the Museum on 79th St. For this 
event the street was closed from motor traffic. Delegates, with the 
outside public, safely stationed in the centreline to see the setting 
Sun between housing towers hemming in the street. 
    The presentations were given in Kaufmann Theater, one of the main 
auditoria of the Museum on the street floor. It's actually on floor 
below grade by the sunken level of the Museum building but it's the 
lowest regular floor. A floor under it is the 'lower' floor connecting 
to the subway station and cafeteria. 
    INSAP was a closed-invite meeting, much like a trade or industry 
conference. There was no spectator attendance. NYSkies agitated for 
letting its astronomers sit, even with a fee, but the overseas INSAP 
committee passed up on this suggestion. The invited attendance was 
held to 100 from all parts of the world. 
    Kaufmann Theater seats about 250, making the room feel empty when 
every one of the 100 delegates was present. Just about half of the 
seats was vacant! Altho this gave a weak appearance of participation 
it did allow for relaxed sitting. I could put my shoulder bag on an 
adjacent empty seat.and the hang a leg over its arm rest. 
    Like for other conferences I attend, the size of audience at any 
moment varied. Delegates picked out certain presentations to hear and 
skipped others. They did the Museum or City, visited local colleagues 
in town, spent time with local friends and family. 
    In hindsight it may be better if the adjacent Linder Theater, 
holding about 125, was used. That's just how things worked out a while 
before the conference opened. 
    Every one was a scholarly person, whether from a traditional 
institution or by independent work. In general the hard astronomy was 
mostly handled by affiliated delegates due to the need for assistance 
and funding and crew. The softer astronomy tended to by works of the 
independent scholars. 
    Age ranged from collegiate, like students and apprentices, to 
seniors, like longtime doctorates and professors. The former showcased 
mostly their school or independent projects while the latter spoke of 
more elaborate works, drawing on the resources of their affiliation. 
    Most seemed to come from Europe and the United States, but I 
didn't study the participant roster that closely. I may be fooled by 
the high level of English every one spoke? 
    Any attendance bias toward a one or an other country could also be 
due to travel constraints and local burocracy. For me it was just 
getting off at the Museum's subway station in place of that at my 
workplace! I also went home after the sessions, not staying in town at 
a hotel. 
    Fully one-third of the delegates were female and they were there 
in their own name and calling. They varied in quality from university 
professors to solo wagers of various art and culture pursuits. They 
blended into the dialog, with not the least suggestion of genderism, 
being fully the equal of their male colleagues. 
    Dress varied from academic and business attire to glatt casual 
urban garb. The torrid weather in the City gradually relaxed the dress 
over the days. Even at the Wednesday night dinner, loose summer wear 
was the norm. 
    Every one was quite social during the breaks and lunch. Many 
formed cliques from prior association but they welcome others to join 
in the dialog. 
    For some delegates this meeting was a return to the City from a 
long-ago schooling or residence. They were amazed at how marvelously 
clean and beautiful the City became! Many were here during the low 
point in New York history, with untidy memories.
    These were specially shown in the INSAP walks thru Grand Central 
Terminal. Delegates recalled passing thru the Terminal in its darker 
dirty years. They were utterly blown away by its brand-new look and 
feel. A few dropped tears of joy. 
Language and metrics
    Everyone spoke good English, even those whose work was done in 
their native tongue, as seen in their slideshows or audio clips.The 
deepest accents were still intelligible. The worst I heard was a 
faltering now and then to grab the proper English word, but that's it. 
All else was in the clear.
    Most of the off-site dialog was in English, perhaps to better 
converse with colleagues across language frontiers. Once in while, 
when a small group of a common language assembled during breaks, it 
switched to the native language. 
    On the whole the English was quite of high level, with fluency of 
complex sentences and grammar. Once in a while there was a shift in 
the accent of a technical word but actually less than what I hear 
among home astronomers in the United States. 
    Every one knew metrics, it being the standard system on planet 
Earth. I had no trouble chatting with the delegates with metrics, A 
curious point is that I hardly ever heard the use of 'hectare', a unit 
of area equal to 1,000 suare meters. Areas were cited in square 
meters or square kilometers. For the Grand Central Terminal walks I 
stated areas in both hectares and square meters. 
    I introduced the metric acre of 4,000 square meters, 4 hectares, 
as a convenient crosswalk from oldstyle to metrics. This makes one 
square kilometer equal to 250 acres. Most delegates didn't know about 
this conversion. 
    The only routine use of oldstyle came from a few of the American 
delegates. They sounded quaint to give measures in 'foot' and 'mile' 
and 'pound'. Their temperatures were in degree-F, often not specified 
as such. These numbers put smiles on delegate faces. '50 degrees' if 
taken as Celsius is damn hot! 
    When I, as part of the local committee tasks, evaluated the 
abstracts, I saw that a substantial fraction of applicants tagged 
themselfs as 'independent scholar' or 'independent researcher'. They 
did their work outside of a formal academic setting. In spite of this 
status, virtually all of their applications were entirely worthy of 
invite for INSAP. 
    But if they are not part of a traditional academic facility, 
aren't they really 'amateur scholars' or 'amateur researchers'? In no 
way were any delegates at INSAP 'amateurs'! All were thoroly competent 
in their fields and presented their work at a professional level. It 
would be hideously insulting to label a delegate as an 'amateur'. 
    But for the whole of the 20th century, independent and home 
astronomers were called 'amateur astronomers'. In the remote past 
'amateur' did mean 'lover' in French. It implied that the astronomers 
carried their profession from a love of the stars rather than for a 
living or substantial compensation. 
    Over the decades since the late 20th century, society evolved away 
from amateur as a polite attribute to one of derision. News media 
routinely label inept, stupid, clumsy people as 'amateurs' like amateur 
mobster, amateur politician, amateur manager. An amateur nowayears is 
deprecated and ridiculed. 
    In spite of the obvious shift of sense, authors of current 
works for home astronomy still tar their readers with 'amateur 
astronomer' and 'amateur astronomy'. 
    NYSkies does avoids 'amateur' for our supporters, activities, 
advocance. Most astronomers in New York stopped using the term at the 
apparition of Halley's comet in 1985. This was part of the migration 
of our profession toward the oncoming millennium crossing. 
    What must the editors, authors, advocates, leaders, publishers for 
the home astronomy market do, now that it's already 13% into the 21th 
century? You got some catch-up to do. Junk, cold turkey, 'amateur' as 
an attribute of home astronomy. 
    Advise your crew, contributors, columnists to cease use of the 
word, period. As an author, speaker, producer of home astronomy 
material, cease use of the term in your work. 
    You must deliberately make the adjustment as crucially as you did 
for any other social or ethical consideration. You can not wait for 
instructions from above or beyond. You really don't want, probably 
sooner than later, to face a lawsuit for defamation of character 
because you described a person as an 'amateur astronomer'. 
    INSAP ran from Sunday night on 2013 July 7 thru Friday morning on 
July 12th. It was a longer conference, more than the usual two to 
three days of most other events I go to. Each day opened with a 
breakfast,  several presentations, break, more presentation, lunch, 
then a second round of presentation and break. The evenings were free 
time, which in our summer months offers late hours of daylight. 
    The talks were grouped by broad topic, set out in the skeleton 
table below. Because astroculture is still a new discipline, we on the 
local committee found it tricky to pigeon-hole the talks by topic. In 
some instances, due to late arrivals or delayed preparation, the 
schedule was shuffled across topics. 
    Altho I did the dinner on Wednesday night, I had to pass up the 
other late evening events due to chores at home. I did short runs to 
my office near Herald Square during lunch and after the day to check 
on any critical work. 
    Here is a skeleton schedule of activities:
    | Sunday 7 July 2013 - 19:30-22:00                         | 
    | registration, welcome, show 'Grand tour of | Hayden      | 
    | the universe'                              | Planetarium | 
    | Monday 8 July 2013 - 08:30-17:40           |     |       | 
    | breakfast (Canoe room), 'Circulation of    | Kaufmann    | 
    | stars', 'Astronomical events', break       | Theater     | 
    | (Totem Pole room), 'Our relationship with  |             | 
    | the sky'                                   |             | 
    | lunch, posters and artwork                 | Powerhouse  | 
    | 'Science visualization' break (Totem Pole  | Kaufmann    | 
    | room), 'Architecture'                      | Theater     | 
    | Tuesday 9 July 2013 - 08:30-22:00          |             | 
    | breakfast (Canoe room), 'Ancient civiliza- | Kaufmann    | 
    | tion', break (Totem Pole room), 'History   | Theater     | 
    | of astronomy'                              |             |                             
    | lunch, posters and artwork                 | Powerhouse  | 
    | 'Pre-Colombian America', break (Totem Pole | Kaufmann    |  
    | room), 'Heavenly bodies'                   | Theater     | 
    | supper                                     | own account | 
    | 'Full-dome films and projections'          | Hayden      | 
    |                                            | Planetarium | 
    | Wednesday 10 July 2013 - 08:30-22:00                     | 
    | breakfast (Canoe room), 'Teaching & learn- | Kaufmann    |
    | ing', break (Totem Pole room), 'Contempo-  | Theater     | 
    | rary art'                                  |             |_ 
    | lunch                                      | own account | 
    | 'Myths, deities, & superheroes', break     | Kaufmann    | 
    | (Totem Pole room), 'FIlm, animation, &     | Theater     | 
    | music'                                     |             | 
    | supper                                     | own account | 
    | 'Inspiration today: music, astronomy, &    | Hayden      | 
    | popular culture'                           | Planetarium | 
    | Thursday 11 July 2013 - 08:30-21:00                      | 
    | breakfast (Canoe room), 'Murals'           | Kaufmann    | 
    |                                            | Theater     | 
    | 'Station at the center of the universe'    | Grand       |
    | astronomy tour of Grand Central Terminal,  | Central     | 
    | lunch  & supper on own account, free time  | Terminal    | 
    | 'Manhattanhenge' regular public show and   | Hayden      | 
    | viewing on own account                     | Planetarium | 
    | Friday 12 July 2013 - 08:30-11:30                        | 
    | breakfast (Canoe room), 'Historic art-     | Kaufmann    | 
    | work', concluding remarks                  | Theater     | 
    All presentations had digital images and many included video or 
audio snips. The shows were loaded into the Museum's projection system 
in the previous day or early on the morning of the talk. For some 
talks a Museum agent operated the computer on the podium to avoid 
fiddle time. This worked out well with minimal delays in the talk. 
    The images were a thoro mix of drawings, on-site photographs, 
scans, maps, computer graphics, pictures from books or displays. All 
speakers seemed to have a well-ordered sequence, altho for time 
constraints some had to flip thru the pictures quickly. 
    Transition between slides ranged from simple flipping to cute 
animations. All were quite well done with no distraction from the 
train of thought for the talk. 
    Audio was clear and comfortable. The mike was attached to the 
podium so when a speaker stepped away, like to point out a feature on 
the projection screen, the voice feathered. 
    For the Q&A a wireless mike was passed thru the audience by a 
Museum agent. It gave clear firm audio output. Depending on the time 
flow some speakers fielded many questions while others had to take in 
only one or two. 
    I can't give even a cursory summary of the talks but there's no 
need for that. The abstracts are in the INSAP website,
Altho a few speaker deviated a bit from the published abstract, as a 
whole the abstracts are a healthy summary of the entire procedings. 
    INSAP allowed a variety of presentations besides the standard 
slideshow. It provided for performances and elaborate videos in the 
Hayden Planetarium, all of which I missed for the late hour.
    It also provided for posters, a generic term for a presentation by 
a display, typicly a, well, poster mounted on a wall, stand, table. 
For this conference the posters were set up in the Powerhouse to be 
viewed and discussed with their authors. Here were also set up models 
and artifact displays.
    Viewing was entirely during the lunch break on Monday and Tuesday. 
It may seem at first that with every one in one place the posters and 
other displays would earn healthy attention. They didn't. Every one 
was engaged with eating and bantering at the lunch tables. Only a 
handful of delegates stopped by the posters. 
    Usually they did so after finishing their meal, with only a few 
minutes left before being called back to Kaufmann Theater. Most of us 
saw the posters as a side step on the way back to Kaufmann. Even I was 
rushed to peek at them! 
    The posters got all too little exposure, a frustration based on 
the attractive description in the abstracts and program guide. This 
situation is awfully common in other conventions I go to. Altho the 
posters are an integral part of the meeting, they are dismally noticed 
by attendees. The items are placed in a off-path room, under lousy 
lighting, in competition with other activities, for too brief a 
portion of the meeting. 
    There were two recent occasions where the posters had proper 
attention. One was the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston 
in 2011. Posters there were on stands in the central lobby of the 
meeting hall. Delegates passed by them frequently as they went from 
one session to an other. Sessions were held in several rooms attached 
to the lobby. Here, too, were assorted conference services, which 
drawed delegates to the vicinity of the posters. And the posters were 
exhibited for the whole duration of the conference. 
    The other was the Tri State Astronomy Conference in 2010 in New 
York. In that meeting the posters were on display for several hours in 
a room with light snacks and chairs. Delegates walked among the stands 
to inspect the posters and speak with their authors while nibbling 
from small plates of food. 
    These are exceptions. The usual case is that delegates miss the 
posters and, after the posters are closed from viewing, ask if they 
missed something important of the meeting. 
    Astronomers are eager eaters! Each day opened with a continental 
breakfast of rolls, muffins, sweets, coffee, tea, juice in the Canoe 
Room on the 77th Street entry of the Museum. Because the meeting 
started at 08:30, long before the Museum opens for the public, the 
77th St entry is isolated from the rest of the building with a 
corridor to Kaufmann-Linder Theater. 
    As is normal for many conferences, no food or drink was allowed in 
the auditorium. Agents reminded you if you try to carry any out of the 
Canoe Room or, for the breaks, the Totem Pole Room. 
    Coffee breaks were in the hallway connecting Kaufmann-Linder to 
the Totem Pole Room. By the first break the Museum is fully open. The 
hallway was isolated by theater ropes to deter the public from 
entering it. Food and drink were less no rolls and muffins and more 
for sweets. The break was about 20 minutes, enough to make a pit stop, 
eat leisurely, and engage with the delegates. 
    Lunch was taken in the Powerhouse, the former electric and steam 
plant of the Museum. It now houses a restaurant for events convened on 
the adjacent Ross Terrace. The lunch was ample with hot and cold 
courses, many desserts, and drink. You could go back for seconds. 
    Seating here was at tables with up to eight chairs, enough for 
small associated delegates to gather. During the lunch the floor also 
exhibited posters and artwork from many of the delegates. We viewed 
them and spoke with their authors as we could during the lunch period. 
    The main dinner was on Wednesday the 10th in the Hall of the 
Universe under the Hayden Sphere of the Planetarium. This was a seated 
meal of salad, roast chicken, potatos, vegetables. On the table were 
breads, butter, water. Coffee and tea came at the end with pastry 
desserts, After the meal there was a set of musical performances by 
some delegates, which I had to skip for the late hour. 
    The one big defect of the meals was that there were no packaged or 
wrapped items. I usually take a few extra items for munching on later. 
All food items were open with no way to wrap them. 
Neil Tyson 
    Neil offered the City to INSAP as the 'City of stars' for several 
reasons. One is that he is working on the sequel to Cosmos, the 
television astronomy series of the 1980s starring Carl Sagan. Work 
was going to ebb in summer 2013, leaving Neil free to run INSAP. 
    An other is that in July is the second window for the Stonehenge 
sunset on Manhattan, an event already recognized worldwide as 
'Manhattanhenge'. Since this is a civic and social event sparked by an 
astronomy phenomenon, it fits in well with the theme of INSAP. By 2012 
Manhattanhenge became a major show for thousands of cityfolk, who 
watch from many places thruout the Manhattan street grid. 
    A third, badly recognized even by the home astronomy world is that 
new York City is a world center for home astronomy. Ordinary folk, 
inspired by astronomy phaenomena, carry the profession into their 
civic and social life. 
    Along the way toward the conference the Cosmos work shifted to 
keep Tyson in Europe! He had to miss INSAP! The meeting management 
passed to Brian Abbott of the Museum. Tyson did speak to us on the 
final day, July 12th, via televideo. He gave greetings and some 
incredible news about the new Cosmos series. For the time being this 
news is privileged. Neil will reveal it later this summer. 
    Manhattanhenge is the globally unique setting of the Sun near the 
summer solstice exacta mente along a street on Manhattan island. The 
Sun settles squarely on the center line of the street, toward Hudson 
River, and nestles between the skyscrapers flanking the street. The 
effect reminds of the sun alignment at Stonehenge in England, whence 
the coined name for this spectacle. 
    It occurs, by the azimuth of the streets, twice each year, on May 
29-31 and July 9-11. There is a chatter of the dates due to leapyear 
and there is some leeway from the finite angular diameter of the Sun 
and the precision of alignment allowed.
    What makes Manhattanhenge so special on Earth is that it is a 
genuine astronomy activity enjoyed in a place commonly -- and 
ridiculously falsely -- claimed to be so hostile to astronomy that 
none is carried on there. This idiotic claim is still parroted by low-
level advocates of home astronomy. 
    The whole spectacle of seeing the solar disc glide left to right, 
slanting downward between the towers, is not duplicated anywhere else 
on so grand a scale any where on the planet. You can see a sunset 
along any long straight line of sight and there are countless pictures 
of these. Some are quite pretty but none captures the link between 
modern society and ancient astronomers, who followed the Sun's motion 
with monuments, as does Manhattanhenge. 
    Since first highlighted by Tyson himself in an extra issue of 
'Natural history' magazine in 2002, Manhattanhenge swelled into a mass 
public event. Litterally thousands of New Yorkers, plus visitors from 
the surrounds, pack the viewing sites up and down the island in a 
festive joyous gathering. It's as if they were really replicating our 
ancestral skywatchers to make sure the Sun is doing his proper thing. 
Only now the watchers relay the good news by cell phone and WiFi!
    I have a thoro discussion of Manhattanhenge at:
    The weather during INSAP was overall hazy and cloudy. It rained 
gently from time to time. On July 11, night of the public Stonehenge 
planetarium show and viewing, the Sun shined thru strongly enough to 
give the INSAP delegates a wonderful experience. 
    Tyson in his televideo greeting on July 12 announced that the word 
'Mahattanhenge' is now an official word in the new edition of the 
Oxford English Dictionary! This is an stunning example of how deeply 
the astronomy nf New York City puts its stamp on world culture!! 
Grand Central Terminal
    I pass over the fantastic history of this edifice, which is 
covered quite thoroly on the Internet and printed media. The building 
sits on 42nd Street, straddling Park Av. The avenue is carried around 
it on a flying roadway that ramps up on 40th St and ramps back to 
grade at 46th St.
    It was designed starting in 1899; construction began in 1903; it 
opened for service in 1913 but wasn't fully completed until about 
1925. The next major construction began in the 1990s and continues 
    The depot was first run by the New York Central railroad, which 
carried other names in its history, skipped here. In the mid 1980s, as 
part of a revival of rail transport in the United States, the Metro 
North Railroad acquired the facility and railworks under it. Metro 
North is a public agency, like so many other railroad rescue outfits 
else where in the country. Its name changed slightly, but I let it go. 
    The building is a true terminal, not a station that trains can 
pass thru and continue their trip. All trains end their runs at 
blocks, bumpers, near the head gates. If you really, like really, want 
to see 'Grand Central Station' you may take a walk thru the nearby 
post office or one of the subway stations. Authors unfamiliar with the 
building still call it Grand Central Station. 
Sky Ceiling
    When opened the Terminal's Main Concourse, or central salon, was 
decorated with a map of the zodiac on its vaulted ceiling. It's all 
mirrored against the direct view in the sky! The plausible explanation 
is that the design came from a 18th or so century starmap, which in 
those days was routinely drawn in mirrored view. This feature of early 
starmaps was in all probability not known to the artist or the 
railroad management. 
    The railroad was alerted to the reversed view by an astronomer, 
lost in history, who on the depot's first day of service noticed it. 
Since then, thru today, there is still no definitive or official 
explanation for the 'defect'. 
    In addition to the reflected scene, there is artistic alteration, 
much like those in many other depictions of the heavens in other 
buildings. Yet it has enough authenticity to be a recognizable map of 
the autumn and winter zodiac.
    The Sky Ceiling is the largest, by far, depiction of the heaven in 
human history, 40 x 70 meters. The crown of the vault is 40 meters 
above the floor. It is accepted that the Sky Ceiling of Grand Central 
Terminal is viewed by more people every year, some 750,000 per 
weekday!, than the all-time viewers of all the other public astronomy 
works, like those in temples and churches. 
    During the renovation of the Sky Ceiling in the 1990s Metro North 
posted explanations of the work. It noted that the stars are reversed 
because they are the way they appear from outside the solar system. 
No, I don't make up this crap!!.
    Some know-it-all authors poked fun at New York for having a wrong-
way map of the stars. We astronomers got even and rally good. In a 
new section of the depot, constructed as part of the rehab, all new 
astronomy artwork was installed! These include cosmograms, genuine 
effing cosmograms! You can stand INSIDE of the solar system and see 
the surrounding sphere of stars right-way round. And then you can 
stand OUTSIDE of the solar system and, lo!, the stars are backwards!! 
More astronomy 
    Just about every tour, and there are many series running all the 
time, point out the Sky Ceiling. It is, for us astronomers, only ONE 
of many astronomy features in this building. Remember, this was 
constructed pura mente as a railroad facility with no intent to convey 
astronomy culture. Yet it ranks right up there with other astronomy-
themed structure all over the world.
    NYSkies is proud to offer a walk thru Grand Central Terminal to 
visiting astronomers and to its own astronomers once a year or so. The 
last NYSkies internal tour was in March 2013 and the next is 
tentatively set for September 2013.
    NYSkies has its internal walks in the cooler months because 
certain parts of the depot are not acclimatized. In summer, like for 
INSAP, the heat can be oppressive in these zones. As a matter of 
curiosity the AC system is itself an astronomy feature, which INSAP 
was freaked out to learn about. I will not spoil the secret why 
astronomy is in the cool air pouring from the wall gratings. You have 
to take the tour. 
    Grand Central Terminal is also a place to do observations of the 
Sun!! One criterion for possible naming as a world astronomy heritage 
site by UNESCO is that the property have use for watching the heavens. 
From a certain spot within the Main Concourse you can experience the 
Manhattanhenge sunset, probably the most publicly accessible point to 
do so entirely indoors. 
    It is also feasible to inspect the solar disc from inside the 
depot! Certain windows have a grilled border resembling tree leafs. 
They are oak leafs, a symbol of the Vanderbilt family who owned the 
railroad and built the terminal. Sunlight on certain hours passes thru 
the borders and throws genuine pinhole images of the Sun on the floor! 
They can be inspected for large sunspots and limb darkening. The long 
throw distance from the upper part of the windows makes the solar 
image diameter 20 and more centimeters. 
    I can't give here a full inventory of astronomy features, but I do 
note that some were in place with the original building and others 
were added in the restoration of the 1990s. The latter group of items 
filled out the fame of the terminal as a modern example of inspiration 
by astronomical phenomena. 
    During the INSAP tours, many attendees gave fascinating comments 
about the items, based on their own presentations earlier in the 
meeting! Some wished they knew of the item, so they could have 
included a picture in their talk as an other example of their work. 
Astronomy walk 
    INSAP toured the Terminal in afternoon of Thursday the 11th. At 
the dinner on Wednesday night in the Planetarium the delegates were 
divided into two groups of about 25 each. Many delegates chose to skip 
the tour and use its time to explore the City on their own account. 
After the morning talks in Kaufmann Theater the delegates boarded two 
tour buses for the ride to the Terminal. 
    The buses left from the Central Park West gate of the Museum, went 
south in Central Pk W, then east thru Central Park in 66/68th St. They 
then ran south in Fifth Av, east in 42nd St, to a stop across the 
street from Grand Central Terminal. The groups gathered at the 
entrance to the public lobby of 120 Park Av. It has chairs, tables, air 
condition. If it was raining we would have gone indoors. 
    I was the tour leader! In the morning session I gave a few tips 
and points for the walk and a brief history of the Terminal. I had no 
slideshow because the visuals were live and in living color at the 
Terminal. I provided maps with with the location of the astronomy 
items and a flyer for the pinhole solar observing and Manhattanhenge. 
    To make life easier for me and the delegates the Museum fitted 
everyone with radio headsets and I spoke thru a radio microphone. The 
device was approved by Metro North a couple weeks earlier. The device 
worked very well inside the Terminal with the transmitter box held in 
a side pocket on my shoulder bag. In the street the signal was erratic 
but we were on street for only a few minutes. 
    The route in the Terminal was revised from that for the NYSkies 
tours and will be used now after for them. It circulated the delegates 
to end the walk on the lower level, Dining Level, where they could do 
the restrooms, sit at the tables, and take lunch. They turned in the 
headsets for the next group to wear. 
    Both groups enjoyed substantially the same itinerary thru the 
Terminal. There were minor differences in my narration as the chance 
came along to point out an extra feature in the building.  
    I had to plan the walk to last no more than 1-1/2 hour, down from 
the 2 to 2-1/2 for NYSkies. I left out some astronomy items. Time was 
also saved by doing some narration en marche via the wireless unit. 
That avoided having to stop, gather around, and speak while standing 
still. This was specially valuable on the long stretch to and from 
Grand Central North.
    Delegates were, uh, blown away by the majesty of the building, 
unlike most American edifices. It could be the 'Notre dame de New 
York'. The sheer size of the Main Concourse, tho not the largest 
interior room in the world, and of the Sky Ceiling was overwhelming. 
They was awed by railroad workers on the catwalks several stories 
above the floor and the work trains that scoot around all over the 
    They were amazed at the strength of rail transport in New York, as 
good as any in Europe, and wholly unexpected for an American town. 
Their mouths dropped when I explained, pointing to the ticket windows, 
that about one million New Yorkers reap a reward for using transit 
rather than driving a car. A rough estimate of the bounty collected by 
these folk is $50 million per month.
    We astronomers realize that so much of luminous graffiti comes 
from the car culture in America. This allowed once strong transit to 
whither away and promotes the waste of light into the sky. 
    That's why we refer to the reward program as the light pollution 
reward program. You get REAL DOLLARS IN YOUR POCKET for using transit 
and avoiding a lifestyle that favors luminous graffiti. 
    I learned from this INSAP tour. One major item is that the concept 
of air rights originated not in New York but in Chicago. The Illinois 
Central railroad facilities were before the Civil War along the lake 
front. Developers wanted to build up the space above the tracks. A 
lawyer and Illinois legislature, Abraham Lincoln, worked out the legal 
method to allow selling or renting the air space over the railroad. 
Lincoln later was our president during the Civil War. 
    Many delegates lived or worked or schooled in New York many 
decades ago. They recall the depot as a dirty filthy smelly place, 
full of derelicts and criminals. They wiped away tears upon gazing at 
the reborn renewed Terminal, as magnificent as any royal palace of 
    To fill out the narration I had a set of large pictures, the ones 
for the NYSkies walks. The delegates asked me to hold them steady so 
they can take pictures of them! They were cutaways of the Terminal, 
part of the tracks within it, scenes of the Redstone display, sun 
discs, mirrored star chart and star globe. Here I learned another good 
thing. To help people see the pictures I should hold the pictures 
above me, bracing them on my forehead. That was so much better for the 
delegates to see! 
General operations
    This was the Museum's first INSAP. INSAP started in the 1990s and 
this round in New York was the 8th. It meets every three or so years 
in a different town all over the world. The Museum has a long 
experience hosting conferences and has their operations down to a 
science. All thru the conference I saw nothing particularly out of 
whack. There were no major bunglings. What minor glitches did crop up 
were handily taken care of by Museum crew. 
    With Neil Tyson away in Europe, the meeting was chaired by Brian 
Abbott with Neil's executive assistant Elizabeth Stachow. A team of 
about twenty other employees and volunteers rounded out the staff.
    Until late June there was some loose ends regarding the Grand 
Central Terminal tours. We didn't yet hear from Metro North about the 
use of the wireless audio unit. Without it the narration would be more 
difficult over the general din in the Terminal and the group would 
have to stop and stand to hear it. Metro North by end June cleared the 
unit and everything else went smoothly then after. 
    Until the night before the tours we didn't know how many of the 
delegates would sign up. The buses were chosen to hold 50 people each, 
the entire delegation of INSAP, just in case. Since only about half or 
so did the walk, the buses were loosely filled. 
    We feared rain being that thunderstorms are common in the New York 
summer. I even caution about them in my article on Manhattanhenge. It 
never rained heavily during INSAP. Only a light brief shower fell now 
and then. 
    On the other hand the oppressive heat and humidity did warp many 
delegates. Those from Europe rarely experience such severe summers. 
Those from the American mid and far west took it in stride, even to 
the point of noting how 'cool' it was compared to back home! A few had 
umbrellas, part of the advice Abbott gave in the INSAP website.
    It seemed to me that every one was comfortable with the City, 
probably due to their travels around the world for their careers or 
vacation. Many had MetroCards to get around by subway and bus.  
    The Museum was comfortably acclimatized, maybe just a bit on the 
warm side, yet orders better than the old days without air-condition. 
No supplemental fans or blowers were needed, like those I see at some 
other meetings. 
    The access to Kaufmann Theater was in the opening of each day thru 
the 77th St gate and the Canoe Room. A short hall from there leads to 
the auditorium. The other exits from the Canoe Room were gated off 
because the Museum isn't open for public visits until about 10:00. The 
hall to Kaufmann has restrooms and sipping fountains. 
    By the first coffee break all of the Museum is in full swing. This 
Kaufmann hall is a flyway from the Canoe Room to the restrooms. School 
groups mustered up here before heading deeper into the Museum. This 
caused some congestion for the coffee and lunch breaks. 
    A service desk in this hall was littered with flyers and pamphlets 
about Museum activities. When ever I saw the piles neatly arranged 
they were quickly messed up within minutes by clumsy visitors. 
    For the dash to my office during lunch or after the meeting I left 
thru the lower level to enter the subway indoors. This avoided the 
long walk in the summer soup from 77th St to the subway stairs at 
Central Pk W and 79th St. By good luck the B, bravo, train runs recta 
mente from my Brooklyn home and from my office to the Museum! It's a 
one-seat ride both ways. 
    INSAP was a grand new feather in the cap of New York as a world 
center for astronomy! It deep-sixes the archaic notion that you can't 
do astronomy from New York, one that persists, like oldstyle weights 
and measures and ediurnate linguistics, in far too much astronomy 
litterature. No more! You want to be an astronomer, be one in New 
York. Get over it. 
    It's tempting to suggest that INSAP make its permanent base in New 
York. It seems that the international committee will keep it as a 
'road show', setting up in various towns across the globe. The next 
meeting is in 2016 or 2017. Maybe it'll come to the US in a town in or 
near the path of the 2017 solar eclipse? 
    INSAP renewed the latent project of NYSkies, accompanied by 
Amateur Observers Society on Long Island, to better document the 
astronomy points of interest in the City. It seems that, From many 
INSAP talks, that other towns are rediscovering their astronomy 
heritage as buildings are renovated and their hidden astronomy 
artifacts are revealed. New York already has an inventory, rather 
casually organized, of some fifty features. There must surely be fifty 
more or even hundreds more, yet to be fully investigated and brought 
to public attention. 
    We already, thanks to the Long Island club, enjoy every couple 
years a 'City of stars' walk. It was based at first on Dr Tyson's 2002 
'Natural history' magazine. Many more were added since then. These 
walks present to our astronomer the interaction of urban society and 
astronomy, demonstrating that New York truly the 'City of stars'.