Thursday, November 15, 2012

Safari #69: Observatory Nights at Boston University

I felt a little like 2001 A Space Odyssey's Dave Bowman when he proclaimed, "My god, it's full of stars!" this past Wednesday night.

I've always been a stargazer and can remember the times as a child when I used my constellation map to look at stars.If you're remembering the stargazing you did as a child and wondering how you can do it Boston, look no further.

There are a number of ways to enjoy the stars compliments of local universities. Boston University, in particular, has held public observatory nights every Wednesday for the past 40 years from the Coit Observatory located on the roof of the College of Arts and Sciences Building at 725 Commonwealth Avenue.

On the night of my visit, I saw Jupiter (very clear, thus super cool), the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Messier 2 (M2) Globular Cluster.  The latter two items were a little fuzzy - but that's ok, they're pretty far away! (33,000 ly and 2.5 million ly respectively).

If you are looking for a midweek date night idea, have star loving friends, or just want to try something different, the observatory nights are perfect.

Happy viewing!

My Tips:
  • Details. Public nights are held on clear Wednesday nights, year round. During the fall/winter months, viewings start at 7:30pm, and during the spring/summer months, viewings start at 8:30pm.  Viewings last one hour. Generally, three objects are highlighted during the first half hour with three additional during the last half hour. Due to the changing nature of Boston weather, it's good practice to call the observatory after 5:30pm (617-353-2630) to confirm that a viewing will be held.  
  • Getting There. The easiest way is to take the T to the Boston University Central stop on the B line. The 725 Comm Ave building is on the side of Comm Ave closest to the Charles River. When facing the building, take any of the entry doors to walk up to the 5th floor. Head towards Room 520 and take the smaller staircase next to it to find the entrance to the observatory.  Need an elevator? Elevators are located at both ends of the building.
  • Guides. Representatives from the BU Astronomy department host the observatory nights and have a lot of great information to share. They also love questions. Quinn and Trey, the hosts on my night, were friendly and engaging. 
  • Rules. Very simply, do not touch or move the telescopes, and no flash photography is allowed.
  •  Viewing in the Winter? Dress warmly (gloves, hats, balaclavas - you name it).
p.s. Observatory nights are also held the Museum of Science every Friday during the spring, summer, and fall. The Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics also offers either a viewing or a lecture on the third Thursday of each month. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Safari #68: Boston's Skinny House

The Skinny House
It's been a while since my last post, but even with the change in the weather, I haven't lost my Boston wanderlust.

Today's safari took me to a little known Boston landmark called the Skinny House - and skinny it is. The house is located at 44 Hull Street directly across from the Copp's Hill Burial Ground. It was my first time at both of these locations, and with the mild temperatures and gentle sunshine, it was the perfect afternoon for exploring.

I love pretending to be a tourist.

My Tips:

  • Be Respectful. If you're up for a visit, remember that the home is occupied. I made sure to enjoy my view from across the street so as not to disturb the residents.
  • Take a Walk. While I had heard of the Copp's Hill Burial Ground many times, today was the first time I've seen it. Take  note at the detail in the headstones.
  • Mangia, Mangia! Since you're in the North End, you may as well stay for a meal.  By the way, if you turn left out of the burial ground and walk back down Hull Street, the Old North Church is right there too.

Copp's Hill Burial Ground