There's no guarantee the sky will be clear tonight, but if it is, Joe Delfausse will be in Dome Playground with his telescope, ready to talk planets and stars with anyone who wants to learn about them.
The evening, sponsored by Friends of Dome Playground, will include a helping of coffee and hot chocolate courtesy of the aptly named "A Star Deli," but the main attraction, of course, is the sky itself.
Delfausse, who bought his first telescope in 1995 and has been using it to investigate the heavens ever since, said while tonight's lineup will include both Venus and Jupiter, there is no such thing as a boring night when you've got a telescope handy.
"Most people have never looked through a telescope before," Delfausse said. "We give them that opportunity, and they look up, and most of them are amazed. It blows them away."
Starting on April 3, Delfausse and his telescope will make weekly appearances at the High Line in Manhattan, where he and other members of the Amateur Astronomers Association (AAA) set up shop along the elevated park, giving anyone who wants one a high-powered glimpse at the night sky.
Because the weather is unpredictable, it's tough to plan a viewing like the one scheduled at Dome Playground. Ideally, Delfausse said he wants to harness the power of astronomers from around the city willing to regularly set up their telescopes in their own neighborhoods, capturing curious passersby.
(This precise tactic worked on Park Slope Patch editor Will Yakowicz, who wrote after encountering Delfausse near his Park Slope home last month.)
Among AAA members alone, Delfausse said, more than 200 reported owning a telescope.
"There’s a lot of people with telescopes, and there are still millions of people who have never looked through a telescope," he said. "They’re all over the city, so I know we can do it. It’s just a matter of getting on it and starting to work on it."
Tonight's viewing will last from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Delfausse will be at the playground regardless of the weather, but overcast skies will mean opportunities for observation will be limited. Those thinking about attending should check AAA's website, which will be updated by Delfausse in the event of prohibitively cloudy weather.
Dome Playground is located on Dahill Road between 37th and 38th streets off McDonald Avenue at Cortelyou Road. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult, and warm dress is recommended.