THE THERAPEUTIC STARS ------------------- John Pazmino Amateur Astronomers Association 1999 October 31
[ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS PRESENTED AT THE 88TH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AAVSO, OCTOBER 28–31, 1999, HYANNIS, MASSACHUSETTS] Construction was begun on a new children's hospital in the fall of 1999 at Montefiore Medical Center in Norwood, the Bronx. The Amateur Astronomers Association (AAA) gave a couple of starviewing and astronomy presentations to the patients in the present children's wing over the last two years. This year the hospital, already fundraising for a new pavilion, was hit by an inspiration from those AAA visits. The new building will be a space station in which the children are explorers of the universe! In fact, it's not even called a hospital. It's the Carl Sagan Discovery Center. The concept of the works, now abuilding on 210th Street, was illustrated with pictures obtained for me by AAA's Antoinette Booth and incorporated discussions with Caralynn Sandorf, the project's director. The entire experience of the patients is that of working on the crew of a gigantic spaceship travelling among the planets. The entry hall has a large rotating globe of the Earth, wall maps of the Bronx and the world, and a ceiling model of the solar system. The wall maps have pushbuttons to light up the address in the Bronx or country of origin for the visitors. The patients, called cadets, live in cabins, not wards, and are issued an explorer's kit. This has, among other items, a ruler, navigator's compass, magnifying glass, boxes and jars for collections, notebook, pens. Their pajamas are space cadet suits. There is a central hall with Internet computers for the cadets to receive news from NASA, ESA, and other space-related websites. Wall maps here plot the tracks of various spacecraft. In this regard, NASA may have its InterPlaNet running for the first of the new spaceprobes when the hospital opens in 2003. The cadets will receive realtime news directly from the other planets! For those confined to their cabins, the computers are at bedside on carts. The roof, in the second phase of the project, will sport an observatory and planetarium. The telescope, of about 400mm aperture, will be fully automated, to reduce the fritter time to aim the instrument manually and to help cadets who have mobility and dexterity constraints. The telescope will be similar to a Meade LX-200. The planetarium may, just may, be a Zeiss projector. No promises here from Montefiore, but it is studying the Zeiss already in the Bronx. The Bronx has a Zeiss planetarium? Yes! It's in the Bronx High School of Science, just a couple of kilometers away along 210th Street. This project, so utterly of a nonastronomy purpose, is one crowning achievement of the 20th century for our profession. It crosses that final frontier yet to be approached elsewhere, the mainstreaming of astronomy as a viable and vivid element of culture. Astronomy has been featured as attachments to nonastronomy works in the past. We can look at the sky ceiling at Grand Central Terminal, the long-gone Luna Park of Coney Island, the Sputnik and the Foucault pendulum at the United Nations, the mythical statues and murals of Rockefeller Center, the noon marker at the McGraw-Hill plaza, the sundials on College Walk of Columbia University. But never on Earth has astronomy been so intimately bound within an structure for so totally a nonastronomy purpose as the new children's pavilion at Montefiore. And it's in the Bronx!