Farewell, 181 St.

Observing is always better when my daughters are home from college!

For 20 years I’ve been fortunate to live just a few steps from an excellent city observing site. This little balcony at the end of 181 St. looks down on the Hudson River, the Palisades cliffs across the river, and the George Washington Bridge — and, best of all, gives a clear view of the sky to the south and west.

The location draws a crowd for magnificent sunsets all year round. Sometimes they’re surprised to see someone (me) setting up a telescope beside them. Once it gets dark I always have a long line of people waiting to look through the telescope. Drivers will stop and get out of their cars to look, as well as the occasional police officer (“Uh, sir . . . is that a telescope?” “Yes, officer, it is. Would you like to see the Moon?” “Yes!”)

But all good things end, and at long last we’re moving. We’re not going far — just a mile south. But it won’t be so easy to set up at the 181 overlook anymore. So last night was a farewell of sorts, with a big and enthusiastic crowd. A young couple spent an hour studying a lunar map and identifying features at the eyepiece. Another person tried all evening to get a photo of the Moon through the telescope without success. Finally his patience paid off with the best photo I’ve ever seen using a handheld smartphone at the eyepiece (see the gallery photo below).

So farewell, 181 St., and thank you for all the memorable evenings like this. And also for the slightly sketchy 3 AM lunar eclipse viewings (ask Chris Spooner about that).

Location: 181 St. Overlook

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