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Visitors to the New Brighton Market view the sun through a solar telescope as Urban Astronomer Gary Steel looks onYou've been warned never to do it, and yet gazing at the sun is possible with the appropriate filters in place.

When we think of astronomy we tend to think of dark nights and starry skies. But the Christchurch Urban Astronomers are out to teach people more about our closest star. The group was formed as part of the global phenomenon of "sidewalk astronomy", designed to bring telescopes out into the community and make star gazing more accessible.

A founding member, Malcolm Locke, says that includes giving people the opportunity to view the sun using a solar telescope. The group was thronged with people when they brought two telescopes to the New Brighton Mall during its Saturday market. Locals and visitors alike gazed at sun spots – cooler spots on the sun, through a choice of two solar filters and praised the Urban Astronomers for offering the rare opportunity

A co-founder of the group, Canterbury University student, Toby Hendy, says she's passionate about astronomy and the response from the public has made it rewarding. "Having all the positive feedback from the people we show makes us want to keep doing it. [...] We just get people that really love what they see. There's a few people that are a bit sceptical of what we have to show them. But, yeah, everyone that sees the sun through it, is quite appreciative of what we've done."

The Urban Astronomers are also members of the Canterbury Astronomical Society which hosts open nights at its West Melton Observatory every fortnight.