King of the Cosmos

NeilCarl Zimmer profiles Neil deGrasse Tyson:

On a hay-mown crest, dozens of people are crouching in the dark. The Earth has turned away from the sun, and the sky has flowed down a color chart, from light gray to orange to bluish-black. A sliver of a waxing moon has appeared briefly and then slipped below the western horizon, leaving the sky to blinking airplanes rising from La Guardia fifty miles to the south, to satellites gliding in low orbit, to Jupiter and its herd of moons and to the great river of the Milky Way beyond.

The crowd that sits in this chilly field in North Salem, New York, is surrounded by a ring of telescopes. There’s a Dobsonian, a giant barrel-shaped contraption that’s so tall you have to climb a stepladder to look through its eyepiece. Small, squat Newtonian cylinders sit on tripods, rigged to computers that give off a weak lamp-glow from their monitors. A few older men are fussing over the telescopes, but everyone else is huddled on the grass.

“Just get snuggly. There’s nothing wrong with that. Get snuggly.”

The voice is deep and loud–not loud from shouting, but from some strange acoustic property that gives it a conversational boom. It comes from a man who looms in the dark at the edge of the crowd.