New York’s most “wholesome” club is 82-year-old Joe Delfausse’s telescope on 9th Street and 8th Avenue in Park Slope.
A line of people formed along the painted meridian on 9th Street between a bike lane and the road on Wednesday with Saturn’s rings and a super blue moon lighting up the sky. That’s where Delfausse, an astronomy enthusiast from Brooklyn, set up his telescope.
It had been a cloudy day, but the sky cleared just in time for nightfall.
“Holy cow!” Delfausse said, counting the number of people waiting in line to take a peak. “Twenty-seven, 28, 29, 30, 31, that’s amazing.”
He quickly made his way back to the telescope to adjust it, as he does every few minutes when he’s out showing people astronomical wonders – something he’s been doing for 20 years. At a time when the city is facing various uncertainties, Delfausse was out providing a space for neighbors to come together and appreciate natural wonders.
“Everybody likes to connect with someone — we like to talk to people and share. Right? And so this is my way of connecting and to make a difference in somebody’s life,” Delfausse said. “When they look through the scope and they say, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like this. You’ve changed my life forever,’ — people have actually said that — it’s a really good feeling.”
It’s been a busy week for the astronomy buff. Delfausse has been managing a longer viewing line since a video of his telescope spectacle went viral on TikTok last week. In that video, he’s seen nodding at someone to step up to take a look, both hands in his pockets, standing casually in the middle of the street where the telescope is set up.
“The cars just had to deal with it,” the caption of the video posted by musician Daphne Juliet read.
That night, Delfausse had been searching for Saturn for a while when he finally found it by setting up in the middle of 9th Street. At the same time, a concert at Prospect Park had just let out.
“I was in the middle of the street, and they would say, ‘What are you looking at?’ I said, ‘Come over here, look in the scope and you’ll know right away what it is,’” Delfausse said, recounting the night. “And so immediately the line got — 30 people on line, like within five minutes. And it stayed that way for like an hour-and-a-half. It was wonderful.”
On Wednesday, Delfausse managed to find Saturn without blocking traffic on the southwest corner of the intersection. The planet’s placement coinciding with a supermoon meant that Delfausse was constantly pointing the telescope back and forth between the two for his visitors. But he didn’t mind.
“Look at all the people they’re talking with. These are total strangers and they’re all talking with one another. That’s what this is all about,” he said.
It was 28-year-old Park Slope resident Josh Harrison’s first time looking through a telescope, and it left him stunned. But it was the communal experience, he said, that warmed his heart.
“It’s a really amazing way to see the community — I think to see your neighborhood, to see people from other neighborhoods coming together and there’s this really beautiful public service aspect of it,” Harrison said. “It’s really, it’s very wholesome.”
And while the line was a vibe of its own, for neighbors waiting their turn, nothing beat looking through the telescope. People gasped in awe. One person called Saturn “cute.”
Afterwards, each person thanked Delfausse and gushed about having seen the moon’s craters and Saturn’s rings — some standing in line twice to get a good look at each one.
Mary Jane Callister, 55, stopped by the intersection with her two teenage kids Henry and Frances Helquist.
“We were able to see its rings, which I’ve never seen before,” Callister said. “And then of course, the moon, which is what we came out to see, was beautiful. We could see some of the craters on it and really see the gray color of it.”
It was a special occasion for Frances, whose favorite planet is Saturn.
“When I was a little kid, I just liked the planet. I just thought it was cool. It’s so weird looking!” the teenager said. “All the other planets just kind of are round circles and then Saturn just has a ring of just trash, like space trash, and so it’s kind of cool.”
Finally, a little after 10 p.m., Delfausse got some relief. A fellow friend with a telescope pulled up to the intersection and set up shop, splitting moon and planet viewing duties. That’s what Delfausse said he wants to see more of.
“What I did was nothing special. Anybody could do this,” Delfausse said. “I used to be the membership secretary of the Amateur Astronomers Association and we had 850 members, 47% of them had telescopes. Where are all those people? Why aren’t they out on the street corner doing what we’re doing?” he said.
He continued, “I’d like to get everybody who has a telescope out here doing this on every street corner in New York City.”