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The Night The Stars Came Out to See The StarsByGeorge Willis 

     For ISAN IV, members of the LA Sidewalk Astronomers made the trek over the hills and drove down into the heart of Hollywood.  We set up camp on Sunset Blvd in front of Amoeba Records with one 10-inch and two 8-inch Dobsonians.  There are numerous clubs in the area as well the world famous Cinerama Dome Theater, restaurants, and much, much more.  The corner location we chose is centrally located to all the venues in the area so there is plenty of foot traffic.

     The weather was perfect that night for Sidewalk Astronomy.  There was no wind to speak of and the temperature was mildly cool.  We arrived at 19:00 as the sky was just getting dark, though glaring city lights and tall buildings limited what we could show to guests at the eyepiece.  At first all we were able to show was the Moon, but that didn’t matter.  Everyone loved it!  There were numerous gasps of delight, “ooohs”, “aaahs” and other exclamations.  Every so often we would get a real reluctant person to peek through the scope and marvel at the Moon.  After their initial shock that it was beautiful AND free, they would be so awestruck that they started to beckon other passing strangers to the eyepiece. “Oh my God! You have to see this!  This is so beautiful!  Come take a look!”

     Other times people would come up and be astounded by what they just saw, then immediately get on their cell phones and call friends.  “You’re not gonna believe this… I just looked at the Moon in a telescope.  No… Seriously.  It’s the craziest thing.  I'm down here on Sunset and this guy has a telescope out here…”

     I was set up at the bus stop in front of Amoeba Records.  Donna Smith, John Dobson, Karla Comayagua, and Mike Sepulveda took over the opposite corner of the intersection where John held court and talked to admirers, answered questions, and made new friends and fans.  Around 21:00 Saturn was visible over the tops of the buildings and I aimed my scope in that direction.  People that had looked at the Moon earlier and were passing back by again stopped to see our ringed celestial neighbor and got an even bigger thrill.

     As the crowds died down around 22:30 Donna & Co started to tear down their equipment. John, Karla, and Mike moved to my side of the street with their gear while Donna retrieved the van.  About the same time I decided to call it a night and pack up.  Right then someone patted me on the back and a real familiar gruff and husky voice said, “Thanks for doing this.”

     I turned around and was surprised to be face-to-face with actor Edward James Olmos.  He was in the area with about a dozen friends and they saw what we were doing and stopped by.  Before they left, Karla got a chance to come up and meet him.  With Mr. Olmos was his friend and “Battlestar Galactica” co-star, Michael Hogan.  As a fan of BSG, I was thrilled to meet “Admiral Adama” and “Col. Tigh”.  One of the others in the group asked if they could look through my scope.  Mr. Olmos said, “No, this guy is putting his stuff away.”  I said I didn’t mind and had it aimed back at Saturn in no time flat.

     After Mr. Olmos had taken his turn looking at Saturn, he pulled me aside and pointed toward the man currently at the eyepiece. I could tell by his smile and tone of voice that Mr. Olmos was in awe of the man.  He whispered to me and said, “See that guy there?  He’s going up on the next Shuttle Mission.”  The man looking through my telescope was astronaut Garrett Reisman, who will be headed back to the ISS in May.

     The men and women in their group were all quite happy with the view of Saturn I provided and thanked me individually as they set out to leave.  Mr. Olmos shook my hand and thanked me again.  Mr. Hogan shook my hand and I said “Thanks for doing ‘Battlestar’,” which got a big grin from him.  When Mr. Reisman was shaking my hand I asked about the Shuttle Mission. “So you’re going up in STS one thirty… three?”  He gave me a big smile. “Close! I'm going up in 132!”  Everyone was very surprised that I actually knew the mission numbers.  One of the women in the group exclaimed, “Wow! Someone actually pays attention!”

     By the end of the night we had over 400 visitors (and a couple of surprise guests) look through our scopes.  All-in-all it was a real enjoyable night of Sidewalk Astronomy and a great way to spend ISAN IV.





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