Jupiter Joe and His Journey Through Space


“I remember being home as a kid and just looking out my window, staring at the moon. There was not much I couldn’t see with my binoculars.”

Joseph Martinez, also known as Jupiter Joe, had the shine and passion of a million galaxies in his eyes. Martinez discovered his abiding enthusiasm for astronomy after his father gifted him a pair of binoculars when he was just a boy.

Photo by Joseph Martinez

“Fast forward to my thirties, and my daughters were at an age where they started to get interested in things. I always had a passion for space, so we would always end up talking about space missions,” he shared. “One day, I decided to buy a telescope, and that first night, we set up the telescope on the roof. The different residents in the building would see it and wander up, asking questions. About two weeks after I had purchased the telescope, I just decided: you know what? I’m going to take this out to the street and see what happens.

Martinez’s charismatic and eager astronomy lessons never fail to attract a crowd. He started sharing his knowledge from the roof of his apartment building, moving from subway astronomy to sidewalk astronomy.

“I would go to my local gas station because I knew that it was an area people would be walking through at all times, and it was really light-polluted, but I was just looking at the moon that one night. That was the beginning of ‘Jupiter Joe Sidewalk Astronomy’ back at the end of 2011.”

Martinez’s main goal is to get people involved in astronomy.

“I realize not everyone out there has access to the resources that I have, nor do they have the interest. A lot of people will use their phones and say ‘Oh, I have an app for that! I can see Jupiter on my phone. Look at this picture!’ But have you ever looked at it

with your own eyes? Have you ever seen the moons actually moving around Jupiter?”

Martinez rides solo on this journey through space. He now aspires to motivate children from lower-income communities to take an interest in astronomy.

“It’s one of the main reasons why I do what I do. I was a poor kid from the Bronx. I did not have a telescope and I didn’t have access to one or know anyone that had one,” Martinez explained. “The closest I got to a telescope was the binoculars my father had given me. Back then, we didn’t have the internet and we didn’t have any resources, aside from going to the library – which I pretty much lived in.”

Before COVID-19, Martinez worked onall events publicly, including many science festivals and the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF).

“We do sessions where we teach people about the solar system, how far planets are from each other, and all things of that nature.”

Not only does Martinez do sidewalk astronomy, but he also carries around engaging props with him everywhere he goes.

People always laugh at him because even at social outings and parties, when he’s asked about events such as moon landings, he’s guaranteed to break out his props, he says. He always carries a lunar lander and its man module so he can use visual examples during his explanation of how people land on the moon. He also carries a capsule with Mars, the moon, and Earth, and each is 3D printed to scale.

According to Martinez, something called a “conjunction” happens all the time, but a lot of people think that it means the planets are close to each other when it’s actually just perspective-wise that they’re close to each other. This is called “angular perspective.”

“Looking at Jupiter, it’s 420 million miles away, and looking at Saturn, which is almost 900 million miles away, their alignment makes it look like they’re very close together. In fact, on the 21st they’re going to be so close that you’ll be able to see them through a telescope all in one frame. So it’s a matter of degrees.”

Martinez has a big week coming up for the Jupiter and Saturn conjunction: an incredible phenomenon that will form a rare “Christmas Star.” The event week will start on Dec. 21.

Facts about astronomy and information on upcoming events can be found right on Martinez’s Instagram page @jupiter_joes_astronomy.