Starry, Starry Night
By Jamie Jensen
Every so often, a walk along downtown Purchase Street brings an unexpected moment that reminds us we need to get out more and wander over to our local village for a visit. The Sunday night of Labor Day weekend was one of those lovely evenings when strolling felt just right. The weather took a break from its soaring, steamy days in the 90s. It was 72 degrees, the sky was clear, and Rye residents and visitors were out and about.
Folks were filling tables outside Ruby’s, Aurora, and Bare Burger, enjoying a meal together. Families with young children, couples, and groups of friends were walking the sidewalks with an ice cream in hand from Longford’s or the new La Fenice Gelateria on Purdy Avenue.
Jeffrey Jacobs, a Rye resident, had positioned himself outside Great Stuff, the fashion boutique across from Starbucks, with a telescope that was nearly as big and broad as he was. He was setting up his scope with quiet care just as the sun was going down and strollers began to gather. First just one family – with a baby and two young elementary-age children — seemed determined to stay and watch him quietly work. Whatever was going on, they wanted to see what he was up to.
Within 45 minutes, a small crowd had gathered, waiting patiently in line to see Saturn. Mr. Jacobs would position a small step ladder for the children to climb up. His directions, in a soft voice, were simple, “Close your one eye and tell me when you see the white dot with the ring. “Take your time” he would encourage. When he got a nod, or a “wow” or “Is that real?”, he would share a fact. “See the space between the ring and the dot? Two Earths could pass through that space.”
On September 2, Saturn could be found in the southern sky as darkness fell on Purchase Street. With the naked eye, it resembled a bright star, but with Jacobs’ 85-pound Dobsonian telescope, Saturn’s disk and ring system were open and visible. This very large, amateur telescope gathered enough light on this clear night to bring our night sky alive for all who were interested.
When asked, why he came that night, Jacobs replied, “I am just doing my public service.”
Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system, made mostly of gases, and is universally recognized for its distinct set of rings. It is 95 times more massive than Earth but the only planet that is less dense than water. If you could place it in a large enough ocean, it would float.