SUNY-New Paltz’s Astronomy Night, scheduled for the first and third Thursdays of the month, features a show at the college’s indoor planetarium, located in the Coykendall Science Building lobby, followed by a viewing at the outdoor telescope, located at Smolen Observatory, near the alumni soccer fields on the campus’ south side – provided that the skies are clear. It’s free and open to the public, and very popular, with the planetarium show held from 6 to 6:50 p.m. and the observatory viewings from 7 to 8 p.m. The next Astronomy Night will be on March 1; for subsequent shows, on March 15, April 5, April 19, May 3 and May 17, the showings will take place from 7:30 to 8:20 p.m. and the telescope viewings from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.
The program is run by the planetarium’s director, Raj Pandya, who is also a lecturer in the Physics Department. Amy Forestell, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy, oversees the observatory. Forestell said that each planetarium show starts with a talk about is visible in the sky that night, and then focuses a particular theme – which in the past have included what stars and planets Magellan would have seen; the life and substance of stars; and the night sky of the ancient Egyptians (in a collaboration with a History professor).
Pandya has a dedicated following, and the program is particularly valued by area kids and their parents. To ensure a seat, get there at least 20 minutes early. For more information and directions visit www.newpaltz.edu/observatory and www.newpaltz.edu/planetarium.