By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Visitors to the First Friday Gallery Walk in the Paseo District will discover a new addition beginning Aug. 2 when the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club launches a monthly Sidewalk Astronomy program.
Astronomy Club members will set up telescopes on the central island at N.W. 29 and Paseo beginning at 6 p.m. for each First Friday Gallery Walk event.
Participants will learn about astronomy as a hobby. If the weather is cooperative, they will have a chance to view planets, the moon, star clusters and double stars.
Astronomy Club President Brad Ferguson said, “The club is grateful to Jennifer Barron, who enthusiastically welcomed the club’s proposal to add Sidewalk Astronomy to the monthly Gallery Walk.
“The monthly event offers a perfect combination of a relaxed, receptive crowd and a venue where telescopes can be displayed and used.”
Ferguson noted that even with some clouds participants would be able to focus on brighter objects like planets.
Paseo Arts Association Executive Director, Jennifer Barron said, “I think this will be a great addition to our First Friday Gallery Walk. I am very glad that Mike Brake and the OKC Astronomy Club contacted me about bringing this to the Paseo. It will be a fun, unique project for visitors of all ages. It will be something new for our Gallery Walk audience to enjoy.”
The Oklahoma City Astronomy Club provides an educational resource for the public in the sciences and academics.
Ferguson said, “We provide opportunities to contribute valuable scientific research and data to the astronomical community. And we provide opportunities for our less experienced members to grow in one of the greatest hobbies in this world or any other.
“The idea of doing what is called in other cities ‘sidewalk astronomy’ came about as part of our efforts to do outreach. Of course, we do special events such as eclipses or when a bright comet comes around, as one might in November, but to promote astronomy, science in general and the club we decided to take astronomy to the people.”
The Oklahoma City Astronomy Club meets on the second Friday of each month at Science Museum Oklahoma Goldman Room, at N.W. 52 and Martin Luther King Blvd.
Ferguson continued, “We wanted to establish a single day each month that people can put on their calendar, so we have become partners with the Paseo Artists Association to be part of their First Friday Gallery Walk.
“Club members will bring telescopes, but if anyone received a scope as a birthday present or other gift and doesn’t know how to use it, they are welcome to bring it along and we will help them. In the summer the sun does not set until quite late, so we will have a solar scope for the daylight hours.”
Founded in 1958, the OKC Astronomy Club is a member of the Southwestern Region of the Astronomical League. Each year the organization hosts the Okie-Tex Star Party, rated as one of the Top Ten Star Parties in America. It will take place Sept. 28 through Oct. 6, at Camp Billy Joe near Kenton, OK.
“The best placed object to view now early in the evenings is the planet Saturn which is always a crowd pleaser,” Ferguson said. “Some months the moon will be visible in the evening sky. Throughout the year different objects will be in view.”
The First Friday Gallery Walk features over 70 artists, more than 20 galleries, 3 restaurants, a yoga studio, unique shops, graphic design studios, two architectural firms and now an astronomy event for the entire family.
“Our members are of all ages and come from all walks of life, but we all have one thing in common, we can’t seem to avoid looking up on dark nights,” said Ferguson.” If you too enjoy the beauty the night sky offers, then join us.”