Once in a Blue Moon

Remembering Neil Armstrong. Upcoming Blue Moon and public observing programs.

Heroes are like a Blue Moon in that they don't come along often and, like the Moon, feel that they are just doing what it is that they are supposed to do. Neil Armstrong was, and always will be, one of those: a quiet man just going about his business of being the first Earthling to set foot on another world outside the safety of our gravity, atmosphere and magnetic field, beyond the bounds of Mother Earth.

The one coming up this Friday can help us to remember him in the way his family has requested, "Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

The Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach is holding a Blue Moon Walk. Come and observe Mother Nature in the evening when the daytime activities have ended and the denizens of the night make their appearance. No need for a flashlight this night. After the hike, the Amateur Observers’ Society will have telescopes set up for you to observe the stellar inhabitants of the night sky.

See giant red stars, little blue ones, singles and doubles. Saturn and Mars will also make their appearance. Then, of course, there is the spectacularly bright Full Moon. See if you can spot the Sea of Tranquility. Although called a Blue Moon, it doesn’t have that color at all. It simply is a term used to describe the not common event of two full moons within a calendar month, the last one being Aug 1. The last Blue Moon was over two years ago. Why not come along and give Neil a wink?

Reservations must be made with the Parks Department at (516)780-3295. There is a $4 per person charge. The astronomers volunteer their time and equipment.

I’ve always been a big fan of the Moon since I apparently began to keep watch at the age of two, much to the consternation of my great-grandmother who severely chastised my mother for allowing me to do so. I’m forever grateful that she didn’t listen. So, I remember the moon landing event quite vividly as my family stayed up late on that July night to witness history in the making. I remember the tears in my eyes as I watched our brave astronauts lumber down the tiny ladder and finally step foot onto that barren wasteland. There had been great trepidation that the dust would be so thick as to swallow up any craft that might land. As soon as I
saw the large disk of the landing leg resting above the lightly colored surface, I knew they would be OK.

How incredible fascinating and entertaining it was to watch them move effortlessly across the lunar landscape, hopping like kangaroos, busily planting old glory to stand for an eternity, carefully placing scientific instruments that still operate some 40 plus years later. How triumphantly glorious it was to watch the craft take off and head for a rendezvous with the command module and then come back home, never even considering that something could go wrong. It was only many years later I learned of all the many bits and pieces that had to work flawlessly for all of this to happen, a true testament to the many thousands of people here on Long Island who designed and constructed this monumental spacecraft.

One of only two remaining Lunar Landing Craft is still here on Long Island for us to observe and marvel over. It’s in the Cradle of Aviation Museum. This museum reminds us of how intrinsic Long Island has been in the history of flight. Please join the Amateur Observers’ Society on Oct 6 as we celebrate Astronomy Day with
workshops, safe views of our nearest star, and the opening of Nassau County’s
only public planetarium.

Not far away, just south of the Source Mall, is the landmark of where Charles Lindbergh began his lone flight to Paris in a single engine aircraft across the abyss of the Atlantic Ocean, a common occurrence every day now. There is a local move on to make this small monument an historic site. I hope they succeed so that our descendants will not forget the incredible feats which have occurred on our little patch of land jutting out into the Atlantic.

Last Friday night, my club had the opportunity to introduce the wonders of the night to the visitors of Jones Beach on the boardwalk. The Moon, only first quarter, was still a marvel to see through a telescope and we explained how the phases come about to children and adults. We’ve discovered that even though people may know the Moon has phases, they don’t understand why. It’s always fun to get some volunteers to play the astronomical parts and move around to simulate the effect. We’ll be holding other public observing programs on Sept. 15, noon-9 p.m. at Eisenhower Park and on Oct. 26 in the evening at the Clark Gardens’ Spooky Walk in Albertson.

On Sept. 22, we will be celebrating International Observe the Moon Night, a night where everyone in the world is encouraged to go out and look at the Moon. I will bet that Neil gets lots of winks that night.

Till we meet under the stars,

Ad Astra


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