The Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers have been setting up telescopes every month for more than 10 years along the Chandler Bikeway at Lima Street and Chandler Boulevard in the Magnolia Park district of Burbank. Weather permitting, the group will set up Thursday, December 4, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. for star- and planet-gazing.
“We try to reach the youth and grow interest,” commented Bob Alborzian of the Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers, noting that U.S. college students currently make up a dwindling percentage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors.
In 2003, the City of Burbank removed an unused rail line that had run in between North and South Chandler Boulevards, from Mariposa Street to Clybourn Avenue, where border with the City of North Hollywood lies. On August 20, 2004, the Chandler Bikeway held its grand opening party.
“I started putting up telescopes at night once the bike path was finished,” explained Alborzian, “and the Mayor and the City approached me and asked for me to hold a regular event.”
While the Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers may have been slow to start off, the group has gained a lot of momentum and the monthly stargazing parties in Burbank are a big draw.
“Before, we almost had to beg people to look through telescope and now we go and they are waiting for us,” continued Alborzian. “It’s a delight.”
Alborzian, who has Master’s degrees in both Astronomy and Library Science, met the founder of the international Sidewalk Astronomers group, John Dobson, as a student at UC Berkeley.
Dobson taught Alborzian how to build a telescope at home, something for which members of the Sidewalk Astronomers are known. The Sidewalk Astronomers share their knowledge and their time with interested people in their communities.
The nonprofit group was formally established in 1976 although Dobson had been sharing his enthusiasm with like-minded individuals for more than a decade previously.
“We teach people how to build telescopes for free,” explained Alborzian. “Your only cost is the build material.”
“Growing up, my mom would often tell me a Persian proverb: ‘seek knowledge and education from the cradle to the grave because one lifetime is not enough,’” he added.
At 69 years young, the retired librarian still takes classes to continue learning about the world around him.
In addition to the monthly stargazing parties at the Chandler Bikeway, the Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers also set up telescopes at the monthly Griffith Observatory Public Star Parties, at area schools and at libraries throughout the region. The group visits Arroyo Seco Academy in Highland Park on Friday, December 5, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers close out the year with dates on December 27 at Griffith Observatory and on the 29th at Burbank’s Chandler Bikeway and at the Echo Park Library.
The stargazers also visit Griffith Observatory on January 24, the Fillmore Library on January 26, Chandler Bikeway January 27 and the Silverlake Library on January 28.