Stargazing: The Good Thing About Early Nightfall
December 12, 2014



Virtually every day, our children grumble that it’s already dark outside by 5 pm.  On weekends playgrounds start clearing out around 3 pm, when the sun starts setting and the shadows grow long. But one of the unsung benefits of early nightfall is the opportunity to star gaze without having to stay up super-late. 
We have written about Columbia University’s fantastic and free Astronomy Public Outreach program, where, starting at 7 pm on Friday evenings, anyone can attend fascinating lectures before heading up to the roof of Pupin Hall to take turns looking at stars and planets through three super-powerful telescopes.  So below is a compilation of free Night Sky programs run by the city’s Urban Park Rangers who serve as “guides to the solar system, discussing the science, history and folklore of the universe.”  The programs include equipment, such as telescopes and binoculars, which are used to observe specific astronomical events. 
And as much as we love waking up to the sight of freshly fallen snow, clear nights in winter are a great time to observe meteor showers—up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at the peak—the phases of the moon, and many planets of the Milky Way. If the forecast is iffy, call ahead to ensure the program is being held as scheduled.
The Bronx: The Geminids Meteor Shower
Saturday, December 13, at 7 pm
Van Cortlandt Park Nature Center, West 246th Street and Broadway
Brooklyn: The Geminids Meteor Shower
Sunday, December 14, at 7 pm
Marine Park, Salt Marsh Nature Center
East 33rd Street and Avenue U
Manhattan: Astronomy
Saturday, December 20, 6 pm
Queens: The Night Sky
Saturday, December 27, 6 pm
Meet at Passarelle Ramp near David Dinkins Circle
While there are currently no nighttime astronomy programs scheduled in Staten Island, children can learn the myths and legends surrounding the season’s shortest day—the winter solstice—as well as the science behind the shorter days and the snow to come.  
Staten Island: The Science Behind the Solstice
Sunday, December 21, 2 pm
Greenbelt Nature Center, 700 Rockland Avenue at Brielle Avenue
This event includes a short hike along the Nature Center trail in search of seasonal changes, and a cup of hot cocoa or tea near the fireplace afterwards!



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