Bringing Astronomy to the Sidewalk in Pasadena and Monrovia
10 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.
(Old Town Pasadena has been a much less frequent location over the past few years with our work schedule.)
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.
Saturn rules the skies this summer! This year the ring is tilted wide giving opportunities to glance the Cassini Division separating the A and B rings of Saturn. For the next few years the northern pole of Saturn will be tilted towards earth. These are features that change on a 30-year cycle, matching Saturn's orbit around the sun.
Mars is still high and bright in the evening sky, but getting smaller and more distant since its last opposition in April. It will be more difficult to see features as the year progresses, but we might still glimpse the north polar cap and some shading on the pumpkin-colored planet.
June brings our last early-evening view of Jupiter for this year. The giant planet will swing behind the sun from our perspective and reappear in a few months in the morning sky. It will return in 2015 for sidewalk viewing.
With many planets and the moon in the early evening sky, it's a great opportunity to see the ecliptic — the plane of the solar system, drawn across the sky. This is the line where all of the planets, the sun and the moon, are found as we all orbit the sun.
- Saturday, August 2, Monrovia, Myrtle & Lime, 7:30 – 9:30
On July 25 and 26, Jane and Mojo will be attending the Yosemite Glacier Point Star Party in Yosemite National Park. During the summer, Yosemite National Park has star parties every weekend (except full moon) featuring different astronomy clubs from the San Francisco Bay Area.Likely future sidewalk dates
All events in Monrovia, at Library Park, the corner of Myrtle & Lime streets. We set up at sunset for about two hours.
- September 6
- October 4
- November 1
- November 29
- December 27
The Sidewalk Astronomers have a grand tradition of setting up telescopes in national parks over the summer. 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 2014 Star Party 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 spring star party on May 31 was a huge success, with over ten telescopes of the observing platform (filling it to capacity), and 31 cars in the parking lot overnight. Our fall star party will be held November 1, 2014 to coincide with the California Desert Protection Act 20th anniversary. Here's the 2014 spring star party flyer to give you an idea of what to expect.
Yosemite: One of the "best-kept secret" events at Yosemite National Park during the summer (between July 4 and Labor Day) is the weekend star parties at Glacier Point, high above the Yosemite Valley. The park invites a different astronomy club from Northern California to bring telescopes each non full-moon weekend all summer long. Club members get a free campsite for the weekend, and park visitors get two free star parties, on the Friday and Saturday nights. Mojo and I will be providing telescopes and a talk on July 25 and 26 2014. You can attend as a park visitor if you'd like on this weekend or another - our star parties are listed in the park visitor guide -- just look for the Glacier Point section all summer long!
For a taste of the Glacier Point star parties, this Yosemite Nature Notes video was filmed during the last three Glacier Point Star parties we attended with the San Jose Astronomical Association.
Grand Canyon Star Party: Every June for a week, visitors to Grand Canyon National Park are able to enjoy beautiful telescope views and astronomy talks at the annual Grand Canyon Star Party. Astronomers travel from across the country to set up on both the North and South Rim visitor areas. Grand Canyon's 24th Annual Star Party will be held on both South and North Rims from June 21-28, 2014
Bryce Canyon Astronomy: for nearly year-round astronomy events
- "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!