“Astro Joe” Guzman sets up one of his telescopes at an event where he encourages everyone, perhaps especially children, to enjoy the wonders of space. --Supplied photo

“Astro Joe” Guzman sets up one of his telescopes at an event where he encourages everyone, perhaps especially children, to enjoy the wonders of space. --Supplied photo

Head in the stars, feet on the ground

Spread the love

‘Astro Joe’ brings astronomy to the people  

By Kelly White

When Joseph Guzman was a child, he used to swipe his father’s binoculars and lie out in the backyard, exploring the urban skies with great fascination.

The young boy did not know what he was observing, but he felt a strong attraction to the stars.

When he reached age 8, Guzman’s mother bought him a 60mm Refractor telescope from Montgomery Ward (that he still has to this day). That rudimentary instrument opened up the universe for him.

GSWNH AstroJoe 030422

“Astro Joe” Guzman sets up one of his telescopes at an event where he encourages everyone, perhaps especially children, to enjoy the wonders of space. –Supplied photos

“I recall my first viewing of the planet Saturn from my backyard,” Guzman told the Greater Southwest News-Herald. “Not knowing that it was the sixth planet, I aimed my telescope on this bright star, low in the west. As the image was focusing ever so sharper, it was apparent that the image was resolving to something more than a pinpoint, as stars tend to be in telescopes; but rather, this object had tangible form. One final minute twist of the focus knob, and bam: there was Saturn in all its glory with a disk and beautiful ring system. Not in a book or a magazine, but in real time.”

That significant moment has echoed throughout the decades for Guzman, shaping not only his career but his life.

Guzman, now known by many as Astro Joe, is the founder and educator of the Chicago Astronomer, an organization of urban astronomers who gather frequently with telescopes and share the skies with friends, visitors and fans.2 2

“That moment in my backyard is what the Chicago Astronomer is all about, connecting sky lovers with the cosmos firsthand and with their own eyes,” Guzman said.

When Guzman retired from the Chicago Police Department after 20 years as an instructor and community/youth programs organizer, the cosmos was still there, waiting for him to return. He always had a high interest in astronomy throughout that period of his life, but time was scarce, with duties on the job and at home taking care of his aging parents. Upon retirement, it was finally time for Guzman to pursue his dream.

“With more free time, I used to set up my more elaborate telescope by the Adler Planetarium for the ambiance and view celestial objects rising up over the lake from the east,” Guzman said. “Planets, the moon, stars, excreta. People would come up to me and ask what I was doing and could they take a peek. After a short while, I was building relationships with fellow urban sky lovers, having great discussions and they wanted to know when I would be returning.”3 2

With no real schedule or association with any institution at the time, Guzman started taking email addresses, but the number of people interested was starting to grow into hundreds.

It was in 2004 he established the Chicago Astronomer to better communicate with the public, post information on upcoming celestial events and when he would set-up a telescope so people could share in the viewings with him.

“Almost immediately, the Chicago Astronomer took off in popularity and participation,” Guzman said. “Television and print media requested interviews and insights on urban astronomy. Sky lovers wanting to bring their telescopes and join me, parents desiring to foster their kids’ interest in the stars and those who wanted to touch the stars all were now part of the Chicago Astronomer. We have legions of loyal fans throughout the metropolitan area, and world, and we are still growing.”4 1

The Chicago Astronomer is not a club, but rather an educational resource organization. They are the resident astronomer crew for the Chicago Park District, setting up telescopes in parks from the northern city limits to the southern border. They also maintain residency and set up equipment on the 606 Bloomingdale Trail, attending to thousands of sky loving fans throughout the observational season.

Organizations contract with Guzman directly and he has shared urban astronomy with schools, libraries, institutions, parks, hotels, groups and private observation events.

“Depending on the venue, I engage with my audience in a pre-observation interactive mini lecture on varied topics such as, planetary characteristics, solar behavior, Apollo missions to the moon or constellation lore and how to find Polaris, the North Star,” he said.

“In the Chicago Astronomer crew, there are about a dozen skilled and social friendly astronomers, who share their skills and equipment with the public. Its fanbase is in the thousands, who anticipate our appearance at their park or institution.”

Aside from founding the Chicago Astronomer, Guzman is also the Space & Astronomy Instructor for After School Matters, with high school teens from all parts of the city, eager to indulge in all things space.

Guzman said studying space is better than any Sci-fi movie.

“There is a pause in time we call the wow moment,” Guzman said. “This is when an observer has a first sighting of the Rings of Saturn, the craggy surface of the moon or the cloud bands on Jupiter. This is what field astronomers enjoy the most, far distant objects brought up close to study, marvel and build a relationship with. We especially enjoy introducing urban astronomy to our very young fans, who have a natural curiosity about the universe and want to share what they have studied and look through telescopes.”

The Chicago Astronomer and Astro Joe have a busy 2022 Chicago Astronomer Observational Schedule with meets in across the city, including Northerly Island, Big Marsh and North Park Village Nature Center. They will also be at West Lawn Park, 4233 W. 65th St., for a stargazing event from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, with a rain date set for Aug. 23. There is no admission charge.

“I encourage all those who are awed in the mysteries of space, to look up and notice the sky,” Guzman said.

8 Comments

  1. Gregory Kozlik on March 5, 2022 at 3:42 pm

    Astro Joe is a great mentor. His enthusiasm is contagious- in the best sense of the word. He’s inspired many budding future scientists. I’ve been to some of his events and watched young eyes light up after peeking into the eyepiece. His wit and charm brings urban astronomy to a whole new level. Go Astro Joe!



  2. Eduran on March 5, 2022 at 7:54 pm

    Joe is a humble man, a role model to many who share the love for the skies. Thank you for inspiring the youth to look up to the sky and discover its wonders. Til the stars!



  3. Narud Arual on March 6, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    Joe Guzman, he is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”

    He is a great mentor to the little ones! Thanks for inspiring the children, specially my son. Best of luck Joe! Ld



  4. Narud Arual on March 6, 2022 at 12:14 pm

    “Joe Guzman, he is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”

    Thanks for being a great mentor to the little ones, specially to my son! Best of luck Joe!

    Ld



  5. Narud Arual on March 6, 2022 at 12:16 pm

    Joe Guzman, he is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”

    Thanks for being a great mentor to the little ones! Specially to my son at age 8. Best of luck Joe!



  6. Richard f Wagner on March 7, 2022 at 5:51 pm

    Joe Guzman… Astro Mentor, Guidesman of urban celestial wonders and all-around wonderful human. I met Joe back around 2010 when I was searching for information regarding urban astronomy. Joe took me under his wing as he does with other astronomy newbs, introduced me to a wonderful group of urban astronomers and taught me everything I know. This guy deserves a medal and the highest of recognition.



  7. Christine Roman on March 8, 2022 at 5:59 am

    Astro Joe is a passionate leader and mentor in our community. His knowledge of space and the cosmos is out of this world. Joes’s work and enthusiasm is an inspiration to our youth his classes open up doors and build knowledgeable individuals. Our family is thankful to Joe and ASM. Personally, We are so glad to have crossed paths with Joe. He is truly an awesome individual.



  8. Joe Guzman on March 8, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    Thank you for the kind words and sentiments…!

    We set up telescopes across the city and invite all sky lovers to join us as we explore the cosmos together via telescopes, instructions and lecture. All are welcome, family friendly and if you have a telescope, bring it. The wonders of the Universe are there to enjoy, even under urban skies. Walk away from anyone who disagrees.

    You can follow the Chicago Astronomer on
    Facebook at: https://tinyurl.com/56j427kh
    Twitter: @AstronomerJoe
    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/josephguzman

    Or email me at:
    chicagoastronomer@gmail.com
    guzman@chicagoastronomer.com

    (Email me and I can place you on our Chicago Astronomer email notifications on events & activities…then you’ll be in know like the cool kids.)

    Astro Voice Mail: 773-299-8171

    If your organization or institution would like to coordinate an event, please do contact me.

    Joe Guzman
    Chicago Astronomer



Local News

Evergreen Park’s Patrick Maroney blocks a kill attempt during a match against T.F. United on April 18. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Year of growth | Evergreen Park enjoying inaugural boys volleyball season

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent After almost 70 years of existence as a high school, Evergreen Park finally has a boys volleyball team. The Mustangs are playing their inaugural season with a junior varsity squad, with some matches being played at the varsity level. Head coach Brian Zofkie is leading this group with assistant…

GSWNH_SnellingPressConf_042624

‘Brazen and cowardly’: Police, community outraged by officer’s slaying

Spread the love

Spread the love.  By Tim Hadac Police and others across the Southwest Side reacted with outrage this week over the slaying of a Chicago Police officer in the early morning hours on Sunday. Officer Luis M. Huesca was shot to death on the street in the 3100 block of West 56th Street at 2:53 a.m.…

Brother Rice junior Gavin Arnold forces the ball over the net during a match against Richards on April 19. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Boys Volleyball | Brother Rice falls to Glenbard West and York, takes 4th at Smack Attack

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent It was a busy weekend in the area for boys volleyball as Brother Rice hosted its 14th annual Smack Attack tournament. The 24-team event played April 19-20 featured area teams Brother Rice, Marist and Richards, along with defending Class 4A champion Glenbard West and two highly rated teams from…

Swanson scores, assists in Red Stars’ win over Reign

Spread the love

Spread the loveThe Red Stars improved to 3-1-1 by beating the Seattle Reign, 2-1, on the road on April 21. Mallory Swanson had an assist on an Ali Schlegel goal in the fourth minute and added a goal of her own in the 31st minute. Swanson missed last season after sustaining a knee injury on…

Tatumn Milazzo, shown at media day before the season started, was amused by winning a Save of the Week award. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Red Stars’ Tatumn Milazzo has top Save of the Week

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Tatumn Milazzo called her achievement “funny.” The Chicago Red Stars defender and Orland Park native was awarded the NWSL’s Save of the Week after chasing down a ball in a loss to Angel City on April 13. The Save of the Week usually goes to a goalie. Milazzo laughed…

A lone white volleyball sitting on a wooden floor

Men’s College Volleyball | Saint Xavier captures fifth straight conference tourney title

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The SXU men’s volleyball team won its fifth straight Chicagoland Christian Athletic Conference tournament championship after a 25-16, 25-17, 25-22 sweep of Calumet College of St. Joseph on April 20 at the Shannon Center. Jan Lopuch had 10 kills and nine digs for the Cougars. With the win, the…

Baseball in a mitt with a black bat low angle selective focus view on a baseball field

College Baseball | Saint Xavier upsets Eastern Illinois

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The Saint Xavier baseball team picked up a win that its players are going to remember for a long time. The Cougars stunned Eastern Illinois, 4-2, on April 17 in Charleston. It was the Cougars’ first win over the Panthers, a Division I program, since 2005. Lyons grad Troy…

A lone white volleyball sitting on a wooden floor

Boys Volleyball | Glenbard West tops Marist to stay unbeaten

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The Marist boys volleyball team, ranked fifth in the nation by USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches, lost to Glenbard West, 25-23, 25-21, in the championship match at the Brother Rice Smack Attack on April 20 in Chicago. Glenbard West (19-0) is the two-time defending state champion and is ranked third…

Alliyah Flores and her St. Laurence teammates earned academic honors by the IBCA. Photo by Jeff Vorva

St. Laurence hoops teams top honor roll

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Area basketball teams proved to be strong on the court and in the classroom this season, and St. Laurence was the leader of the pack. The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association compiled a list of the top academic teams, and the area did well. In Division 3 girls, St. Laurence…

St. Rita's David Lyle won honors from the Chicago Bears. St. Rita photo

Chicago Bears recognize St. Rita senior with All-Star award

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Chances are good that few outside of St. Rita football circles know who David Lyle is. With good reason. Lyle missed his senior season for the Mustangs last fall after sustaining a serious knee injury. He even postponed having knee surgery so that he could take care of his…

Neighbors

Illinoisans can now get documents notarized online

Illinoisans can now get documents notarized online

By ALEX ABBEDUTO   Capitol News Illinois  abbeduto@capitolnewsillinois.com  Illinoisans who need a notary public can now access those services online through a new “E-Notary” portal launched by the secretary of state’s office. This process is one of the latest initiatives of Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias’ ongoing effort to modernize the office and its services.  Notaries…

Prairie Band Potawatomi becomes 1st federally recognized tribe in Illinois

Prairie Band Potawatomi becomes 1st federally recognized tribe in Illinois

By HANNAH MEISEL Capitol News Illinois hmeisel@capitolnewsillinois.com Nearly 200 years after Native Americans were forced out of Illinois, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation has become the first federally recognized tribal nation in the state after a decision from the U.S. Department of the Interior last week. The move represents the first victory in the tribe’s…

Remembering Lee Milner

Remembering Lee Milner

NEWS TEAM Capitol News Illinois news@capitolnewsillinois.com On Wednesday, April 17, the Springfield, Illinois Capitol and journalism communities lost a devoted friend and advocate when Lee Milner passed away. As Dean Olsen wrote in his piece in the Illinois Times earlier this month, “Readers of Illinois Times often have seen Milner’s work as a freelance photojournalist. But…

Capitol Briefs: Expansion of postpartum coverage, ban on kangaroos among hundreds of measures to pass House

Capitol Briefs: Expansion of postpartum coverage, ban on kangaroos among hundreds of measures to pass House

By ALEX ABBEDUTO & COLE LONGCOR Capitol News Illinois news@capitolnewsillinois.com SPRINGFIELD – Illinois kangaroo owners are one step closer to being forced to surrender their marsupials this week after the House passed a bill criminalizing their possession. That was one of more than 300 bills to pass the House ahead of a Friday procedural deadline.…

Pritzker says state ‘obviously’ needs to change 2010 law that shrunk pension benefits

Pritzker says state ‘obviously’ needs to change 2010 law that shrunk pension benefits

By HANNAH MEISEL Capitol News Illinois hmeisel@capitolnewsillinois.com With a month-and-a-half left in the General Assembly’s spring session, Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration is readying its proposal to address Illinois’ chronically underfunded pension system. But the governor this week also acknowledged in the strongest terms yet that any plans to finally get the state on track toward…

Pritzker’s health insurance reforms targeting ‘utilization management’ clear House

Pritzker’s health insurance reforms targeting ‘utilization management’ clear House

By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker celebrated a partial legislative victory Thursday night when the House passed his initiative to end some practices health insurance companies use to control the amount and cost of health care services individual patients receive. The “Healthcare Protection Act,” House Bill 5395, cleared the…

Lawmakers, cannabis industry calls for ban on ‘delta-8’ and other psychoactive hemp products

Lawmakers, cannabis industry calls for ban on ‘delta-8’ and other psychoactive hemp products

By HANNAH MEISEL Capitol News Illinois hmeisel@capitolnewsillinois.com SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ largest cannabis business association is pushing to ban the sale of delta-8 THC, an increasingly popular psychoactive substance that’s popped up in corner stores across the country in recent years. New legislation filed in Springfield this week revives an ongoing debate over delta-8 and other…

As state continues to inventory lead pipes, full replacement deadlines are decades away

As state continues to inventory lead pipes, full replacement deadlines are decades away

By COLE LONGCOR Capitol News Illinois Clongcor@capitolnewsillinois.com Lead pipes in public water systems and drinking fixtures have been banned in new construction since 1986, when Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act, but they are still in use across the U.S. and in Illinois.  The presence of lead pipes has persisted due in part to…

Capitol Briefs: Bill creating new early childhood agency among 244 to advance

Capitol Briefs: Bill creating new early childhood agency among 244 to advance

By ALEX ABBEDUTO HANNAH MEISEL & COLE LONGCOR Capitol News Illinois news@capitolnewsillinois.com SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to create a new state agency to oversee Illinois’ various early childhood programs moved forward on Friday after the state Senate’s unanimous approval. It was one of 244 bills that cleared the Senate this week. Early childhood…

INVESTIGATE MIDWEST: Farmers have clamored for the Right to Repair for years. It’s getting little traction in John Deere’s home state

INVESTIGATE MIDWEST: Farmers have clamored for the Right to Repair for years. It’s getting little traction in John Deere’s home state

By Jennifer Bamberg, Investigate Midwest Originally published April 10, 2024 During the 2023 harvest season, one of Jake Lieb’s tractors quit working. A week later, his combine stopped working, too. Both were new — and he was locked out from making any repairs himself because of software restrictions embedded in the machines.  Instead, a technician…