The firmament is a miraculous splendor that is always just overhead. From the proper vantage point, it takes but a tip of the chin to bask in a celestial beauty that radiates beyond infinity. However, living in a city, it can be somewhat challenging to find a location that allows you to maximize your gazing pleasure. Whether you want a close up look at that diamond in the sky or a sweeping breath-catching gasp of awe from taking it all in, here are some novel solutions to grappling with Philadelphia’s light pollution.
The Franklin Institute
222 N. 20th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
As far as observatories go, your public options in Philadelphia are rather limited. One obvious choice is the Joel N. Bloom Observatory, located on the rooftop of The Franklin Institute. The facility was named to honor director and president of the institute, Joel N. Bloom, who served from 1969 until 1990. According to their website, this observatory features “the 10-inch Zeiss refractor and four Celestron CPC 800 GPS Computerized Telescopes.” The 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain model affords patrons with “views of most planets and bright stars, several star clusters and nebulae, and a few galaxies.” Night Skies in the Observatory, hosted by The Franklin Institute Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts, is a monthly star gazing event which runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The Joseph R. Lynch Observatory At Drexel
32nd and Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Alternately, if you’d like to engage in a different telescopic experience, you can pierce the veil of night at Drexel University’s Joseph R. Lynch Observatory. Typically, the observatory is open the first Wednesday of every month (except January) at approximately one half hour after sunset. The session takes place on the roof of the Main Building at Drexel University. It is run under the direction of Professor Gordon Richards. Utilizing a Meade LX200GPS Telescope with Schmidt-Cassegrain 16-inch Optics, attendees can marvel at a bevy of celestial objects that range from planets to nebulae to star clusters and comets.
Concerts Under The Stars
175 W. Valley Forge Road
King of Prussia, PA 19406
If you like your star gazing set to music, why not try one of Upper Merion Township Park’s famed Concert Under The Stars. Now in it’s 31st year, this free summer series let’s you stretch out on a long sloping hill and chill to the fabulous music of such artists as Susan Werner, Glen David Andrews, and Deirdre Flint. Then again, if you’re feeling funny, maybe it would be better to check out comics such as Chris Coccia, John Kensil, and the Legendary Wid. The weekly Sunday programs all have a 7 p.m. start time, so come with ears for the sounds and eyes for the stars to experience this unique, family-oriented nighttime event.
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New Hope–Lambertville Bridge
N. Main St. and W. Bridge St.
New Hope, PA 18938
New Hope is for lovers…and really close friends. The quaint, picturesque, artisan community is located right on the famed Delaware River — not far from where George Washington made his celebrated crossing. It is a magical locale where creativity abounds. Populated by tiny mom and pop shops, nestled in nature, this little niche of Nirvana makes the perfect nearby getaway to experience the tranquility of eternity found by peering into the endless night sky. The center of this delightful borough might not afford the best vantage point for moon gazing, so if you take a little stroll along the narrow streets to the bridge that connects New Hope, Pennsylvania to Lambertville, New Jersey, and you step out over the water, you will be suspended in splendor as your soul races up to greet the heavens.
Delaware Water Gap
1978 River Road
Bushkill, PA 18324
If all else fails, run away. That’s right, as so many song lyrics urge you to do, just get in your car and drive. The Delaware Water Gap has over 70,000 acres of wilderness area free from light pollution. It also is one of the only parks in the state to specifically list star gazing as an activity. So, if you’d like to couple serenity with a dash of adventure, the Delaware Water Gap is your destination for admiration of the unspoiled wonders of the night.
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Allen Foster, a lifelong Greater Philadelphia resident, has been writing about all those wonderful things that make us feel so alive for over 20 years. He approaches each day as an adventure, eager to discover what new and vibrant surprises await just around life’s corner. You can see his work on Examiner.com.