Bringing Astronomy to the Sidewalk in Pasadena and Monrovia
12 years in Monrovia!
Being a Sidewalk Astronomer isn't really about “joining” anything — it‘s about embracing a philosophy and acting on it.
Ask John Dobson how he became interested in astronomy, and he‘ll answer, “I was born!” People have a natural fascination with the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, but to most it‘s something they read about in a magazine or see on television.
We stop people on sidewalks and let them see the craters of the Moon, the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, or the spots on the Sun. For just a moment, they have a personal connection with the universe around them, and sometimes life seems a little better after that.
We call it “urban guerilla astronomy.”
Many of our sidewalk events are planned only a few hours in advance. We will send a notice to our events email list on an afternoon when we plan to be observing. Join our email list using the link to the left.
That said, there are some patterns to when we can be found, and look at the top of the website for our next astronomy nights.
We typically set up telescopes in Monrovia at Myrtle and Lime on Saturday evenings. For us to set up telescopes, the sky needs to be clear, there needs to be something to see (Moon, Jupiter, or Saturn), and we need to be available that evening.
Weather is always a factor. Our telescopes, big as they are, can not see through clouds. On an evening when we plan to be out observing, we will generally give it a try if there is a better than even chance that we'll get to view the Moon or planets. Occasionally a thin layer of haze will make the sky appear overcast, but the Moon will still show through.
There is never any charge to look through our telescopes.
What's Up video podcast #116 for February 2017 features Venus, Mars and Uranus, comets and Vesta, Plus the sunset glow of dust in our solar system.
On February first the crescent moon joins the planets Venus, Mars and Uranus in the southwest sky just after sunset. If you've been watching Venus the past few months you can't help but notice it's the brightest object in the sky (except for the moon, of course). Through a telescope, you are in for a real treat. As Venus' illuminated crescent phase will thin, its apparent diameter increases. And Venus remains the same brightness all month long.
Just above Venus is Mars, posing with Uranus this month. Mars appears significantly brighter than Uranus, but you should still be able to see both in binoculars, though a telescope will reveal more detail.
Meteors are caused when dust particles from comets and asteroids burn up in Earth's atmosphere. February isn't a great meteor shower month, but you might see a different kind of dust particles called the Zodiacal Light. The Zodiacal light is a triangular glow caused when sunlight reflects off dust particles in the plane of our solar system. Use Venus and Mars as signposts to the cone-shaped glow on the western horizon at sunset in late February and March.
Comet 45P, visible after sunset over the last two months-through both binoculars and telescopes-makes its closest approach to Earth on February 11, when it will be 0.08 Astronomical Units (7.4 million miles) from Earth. It'll be visible in the morning sky in the constellation Hercules. The comet then passes through the constellations Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown), Boötes (the Herdsman), Canes Venatici (Boötes' hunting dogs) and Ursa Major. Then on to Leo by the end of February. It moves swiftly -- 9 degrees each day! It will return again in 2022.
The second of several comets visible this year through binoculars or telescopes, Comet 2P Encke, returns to our view after a 3.3 year orbit around the sun. You can find it in the constellation Pisces. And you should be able to see it through binoculars all month long.
Finally, the brightest asteroid, Vesta, continues to be visible near the stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. I found it easily a few weeks ago in my own telescope!
Jane's Favorite Things! To celebrate the one hundredth episode of ‘What’s Up’ in October 2015, I wanted to share some of my favorite celestial things. Here's the 100th What's Up video. Hope you enjoy watching it as much as I've had creating the series since 2007.
I'm creating a toolkit with NASA tools and resources to accompany each monthly video. These are for both armchair and amateur astronomers, sky loving students of all ages. It's not to early to plan for the August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse!
The Sidewalk Astronomers have a grand tradition of setting up telescopes in national parks throughout the year. For many urban dwellers, an excursion to a national park is the only opportunity to see the Milky Way for themselves. A sky full of stars can be staggering to someone who lives under the L.A. light dome.
We love to get away from the city lights, and love to invite park visitors to spend a little quality night time under a star-filled sky with our telescopes. Jane and I love to set up our big telescopes in Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Grand Canyon NP (north and south rims), and Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.
Mojave National Preserve Fall 2016 Star Partiy This is one of the darkest locations in the country, and it's the closest darkest location for those of us in southern California. The preserve invites their conservancy members and friends to camp under the stars at Black Canyon Group Campsite twice a year. Our May 7 spring star party was cancelled but successfully held on June 25th. The fall star party date is November 5th. Here's the 2014 fall star party flyer to give you an idea of what to expect. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 760 219-4916 to RSVP for the free event (so they know how many people are coming).
For a taste of what it's like at a dark sky star party, this Yosemite Nature Notes video was filmed during three Glacier Point Star parties Jane, Mojo and Gary attended with the San Jose Astronomical Association. Our annual Glacier Point Yosemite Star Party dates are August 12-13, 2016, not a good dark sky night with a big waxing gibbous moon, but it is the Perseid Meteor Shower weekend. There are different astronomy clubs presenting free star parties at Glacier Point each weekend from July 4 through Labor Day (full moon weekends excepting), so if you are planning a Yosemite trip save a weekend night for Glacier Point!
- "Take Two" on KPCC features Sidewalk Astronomers
"Mojave Desert star parties unite space lovers together under the stars" story by Caitlin Esch, features great quotes from Jane and Mojo at the Mojave National Preserve dark sky party.
- Spring dark sky star party featured in the La Canada Valley Sun
Our Spring 2013 dark sky party at Mojave National Preserve attracted record attendance and spawned this great article in the La Canada Valley Sun by Tiffany Kelly
- Yosemite Nature Notes - Night Skies
Gorgeous video featuring jaw-dropping time-lapse photography of the night sky from Yosemite National Park. Jane and Mojo from the Sidewalk Astronomers are featured prominently.
- Photos from International Observe the Moon Night, Oct. 8, 2011
Stephen Coleman joined us to observe the moon on International Observe the Moon Night and captured some great natural-light images of astronomers and accidental astronomers.
- NASA Video on Star Parties for IYA 2009
This three-minute NASA video produced for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 features astronomers from the Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers at our observing site in Monrovia.
- Photos from International Sidewalk Astronomy Day
A short album of photos from Myrtle and Lime in Monrovia, May 19, 2007
- Our Sidewalk Flier — in PDF format
This is the flier we have at our telescopes for visitors.
- Building a Dobsonian Telescope
Complete plans from Ray Cash and the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers
Jane Houston Jones and Morris "Mojo" Jones
Meet our fellow astronomers here
Jane and Mojo have been setting up telescopes on sidewalks ranging from Hawaii to Florida since 1990. As amateur astronomers, they've participated in meteor observing missions for NASA, and appeared on national TV and radio programs.
Jane and Mojo kept the Sidewalk Astronomers active in San Francisco, the birthplace of the worldwide Sidewalk Astronomers, until relocating to Southern California in late 2003. They immediately saw the potential of Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia as the perfect location for sidewalk astronomy, and bought a home there in January 2004.
Among their list of awards and accomplishments, minor planet 1992LE was designated 22338 Janemojo in their honor.
Mojo is a software engineer at Fox Audience Network, and operates his own internet server for friends and family as a hobby.
Telescopes for Schools and Educational Functions
Drop us an email if you would like to have the Old Town Astronomers bring telescopes to your school or civic event. Contact us to discuss dates that are best for informal astronomy in the city. As a guideline, dates near the first-quarter Moon are the best early-evening astronomy. Don't forget to consider the time for sunset!