We got a call into the office a while back from the “Philly Moon Men.” The caller identified himself as one of “Moon Men.” He told us of their astronomy outreach project in the city of Philadelphia and would we like to be part of it in any way? Al has been a sidewalk astronomer since a teenager and David was more than happy to listen to their ideas and help guide them towards their goal. They’ve setup scopes on street corners and vacant lots in the inner-city to show people that they live in a Universe. Because every human being that has ever lived has looked at the same Moon, all humanity is connected by the sight of this celestial object.
We were intrigued by their youthful enthusiasm and dedication to using telescopes as a means of bridging socioeconomic gaps. We invited them to meet us at the Northeast Astronomy Forum at the beginning of April to make connections with other outreach groups and see how other ideas meshed with their own. Two smartly dressed Moon Men showed up and told us more about their adventure with astronomy and how the NEAF experience was invaluable to furthering their understanding of what’s going on in the outreach community. Frankly, they were quite surprised at how much was already going on!
The Moon Men are Bill Green and Brendan Happe. “In a light polluted city, there aren’t many chances to pause and reflect on the fact that we all live on the same planet Earth, sharing the same atmosphere, floating around in a vast and beautiful cosmos,” they write on their gofundme page.
They’ve even lent out telescopes they’ve collected to interested beginners that they try to pair with astronomy mentors.
Their long-range plan is to have trained community leaders set up telescopes in local neighborhoods on the theory that telescopes create safe public spaces for neighbors to gather.
The Philly Moon Men are supportive of their community in other ways. They’ve raised over $1,000 for HIV and AIDS services in Philadelphia for their local nonprofit, Philly AIDS Thrift.
The Moon Men aren’t limited to just doing outreach in the “city of brotherly love.” Right this minute they are touring Europe on bikes with a Tele Vue-76 telescope! They are setting up the scope in city centers on a winding, three month, 2,000-mile journey from Rome to Copenhagen. Bill wrote on the Philly Men Blog: “This journey will be a testament to how the night sky unites us all. We will set up telescopes in public places to reconnect light polluted cities to the night sky. Along the way, we will visit places that are important to the history of astronomy, and take a look at some truly ancient telescopes!”
Follow this journey on their blog.
Please, do this for the people!
So far in Rome, they’ve experienced cycling through Italian traffic, dazzling people with telescopic views of the heavens from the Spanish Steps and Colosseum, and Bill emailed us this interesting encounter: “In Piazza di Santa Maria, an armed guard approached us. With an assault rifle hanging from his neck, we thought for sure he was going to tell us to leave. Instead, he asked to look at the moon! He thanked us for the view, smiled, and said: Please, do this for the people!“
This trip won’t cast a cloud on their outreach in Philly this summer. They have arranged for volunteer “Moon People” to set up telescopes in the city in their absence. They are also forming plans with the local school system and police to get kids excited about space and especially the Moon!
(If you don’t have an old telescope, consider donating on their gofundme page.)
I’d like there to be enough telescopes so that the people of Earth have a chance to see what the universe looks like. It doesn’t look anything like San Francisco on a sunny day, it’s made out of hydrogen and helium, it’s very dark. But people do not understand this unless they look through a telescope. The amateurs must solve the problem of making it possible for the public to have a look… I simply mean people who are willing to get their telescopes out… but you have to get it to a place where the public goes. You see the importance of a telescope is not on how big it is… it is is how many people less fortunate than you got to look through it.John Dobson (1915 – 2014)
- Read what the Philly Moon Men are up to right now on their blog
- Visit the Philly Moon Men website
- Philly Moon Men Instagram wall
- Tele Vue-76 webpage (mobile site)
- Tele Vue-76 on our Birding site
- Small scope Accessory Package blog post
- FoneMate makes astronomy outreach easier (mobile site)