A Winter Rooftop that is Out of this World! (Pupin Hall, Columbia University)

Save the date – and hope for clear skies – on February 7, 2014!

Here’s a great winter rooftop experience for you, and another preview from Section 6 of my upcoming book, “Roof Explorer’s Guide: 101 New York City Rooftops.”

photo by Heather Shimmin
photo by Heather Shimmin

97. The Rutherford Observatory (Pupin Hall rooftop at Columbia University)

The most thrilling sight from most 15-story Manhattan rooftops is the view of the city below. But what the Rutherford Observatory, atop Pupin Hall at Columbia University, offers is the view above. It can outshine even New York City with some heavy-hitting celestial competition.

The view below includes the cathedral spires of the Union Theological Seminary and the George Washington Bridge, and is indeed spectacular. Yet the crowd is drawn here every other Friday for the opportunity to look up toward the planets, stars and constellations.

The Columbia Astronomy Public Outreach program holds a lecture/stargazing event twice a month during the academic year. The 30-minute lecture is followed by rooftop telescope observations, usually through one of three telescopes manned by the endearingly enthusiastic Columbia astronomy student volunteers. Inside the oxidized green rooftop dome, built well before the surrounding “light pollution” began interfering, is a 14-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. The volunteers focus the telescope and remain on hand to answer questions.

While rooftop visitors explore the enormous wonders of the galaxy on top of Pupin Hall, its underground laboratories are where 29 Nobel Prize winners in physics studied the tiniest building blocks of our universe. In 1939, the first atom-splitting in the United States took place in the cyclotron in Pupin’s basement. Furthermore, much of the early work on The Manhattan Project occurred at Pupin Physics Laboratories, and even our most famous wild-haired physicist, Einstein, did research here.

Take advantage of this opportunity to observe the heavens atop the building where the stars of the physics world have truly shined.



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