I bought my Orion telescope two years ago to get just a little bit closer to the wonders of the night sky and have been delighted at seeing the moon up close, the rings of Saturn and many Messier objects. I live in the city and although the light pollution limits the viewing pleasure I use it often and proudly consider astronomy to be one of my many hobbies.
Recently I felt that I was repeating the experience over and over, I was studying the same objects from my garden and felt I should mix things up a little. The observer, me, stayed constant as did the objects for the most part, I needed to add a variable. I had heard about the Sidewalk Astronomers founded by John Dobson in San Francisco and decided to go public. My best friend Allie, Border Collie/Jack Russell mix, joined me outside our local Starbucks and we began setting up. Now the scope, XX12i Intelliscope, isn’t small and it immediately started to get enquiring eyes. I had met the local regional manager for Starbucks and gained approval to set up outside but there were concerns I was constructing a missile launcher. As soon as the eyepieces went in and I invited customers to come out their concerns went away and instead were amazed at the sight. First viewing was the moon and I always received a "wow" as the observer saw individual craters and the contrast of the shadows. The staff at Starbucks came out and was so grateful they gave me free hot chocolate. People walking by were invited to look and some were so amazed they offered me cash, I refused of course but some insisted and I asked them to put it into the Starbucks tip jar. Over thirty people took turns to observe over a couple of hours, some came back a second time with friends. Many asked questions of which some I could not answer but it was a great social event and it took observing to another level. Allie had fun meeting new friends and I have since done three more Starbucks Stargazing, the most recent to show off Saturn.
You meet many different characters when you stand on the street for two or three hours late at night with a telescope but in the end we are all the same, specs of dust in awe of the universe.