The Spyglass Network (SGN)

The Spyglass Network (SGN)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Under One Sky by Jenni Kay

(edited, from SGN Newsletter 23)

Recently you asked how often do I think of northern skies from my location in Australia. I’m not so concerned about Sky and Telescope’s northern orientation, as it always arrives 2 months late anyway!  I like magazines like this for their broader coverage, and I don’t detect any ‘northern bias’. I just read what I’m interested in. I hear about the terrible climates northern observers endure, and the distance some northern folk have to travel to dark skies, compared to our dark skies close by and mild weather. Yet the ones I know are very enthusiastic, vibrant and productive, and are doing wonderful things.  But I love it here. I’m not bragging, but for 9 months of the year the Milky Way is well placed overhead in our skies, including Sagittarius and Scorpius near zenith when they’re up. During those other 3 months we have the Magellanic Clouds crossing the meridian and the Fornax Galaxy cluster overhead.  Its all in the south!   What are my impressions of northern constellations I can see?  What does the Dipper look like? Can I see the circumpolar at all?  Hmmm, I‘ll have to get back to you after I go take a look. I don‘t know. I‘m not sure.  But my friends and I in the northern hemisphere have bridged any gaps between us.  We don‘t talk about northern or southern skies, we talk about THE sky.  When I receive messages from you, you don‘t really seem so far away. We may be separated by great physical distances, but there’s no gap - you are always close by!  (Jenni Kay, an amateur astronomer in southern Australia.  Haven’t heard from her in twenty years but apparently she recently retired as the Southern Skies director of the Webb Deep Sky Society.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

First Letter by Alexandra Zampara (from Issue TWENTY)

I would like to share a few thoughts on astronomy and what it can mean to someone.

As a profession or as a so-called hobby, it is not chosen by chance. The reason for occupying yourself with it lies deep in the soul, in the very essence of your own being. People who take it up, whether pros or amateurs, end up devoting a big part of themselves to it. You cannot just ‘like’ astronomy. You either get totally absorbed by it or it passes by as a very short enthusiasm which doesn’t take but a few moments of your life.  In this case, it doesn’t reveal to you anything of true enchantment.

Astronomy didn’t begin just as a science on paper or as plain and dry calculations, it began as a vision - a dream, a sole purpose, and some people were even killed for their ideas.  There aren’t perhaps a lot of sciences that carry martyrs in their history.  The essence of this science or art lies in those first human eyes that turned up with awe to the night sky and were given just a touch of the infinity and the great wonders beyond their comprehension.

This essence lies in those sleepless nights, one after another, when you live the thrill of star hunting.  To begin your relationship with the sky, or rather your communion, it may be enough to simply let your soul be filled by the music of the stars.

(written in 1995 by 18 year old Alexandra Zampara, a freshman at the Aristoltelian University,  Thessaloniki, Greece.)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What is Paradise? by Sissy Haas (from Issue 2)

What is paradise?  I think it was Nietzche who wrote that 'man is the most unhappy of all animals'. I'm not sure we've all heard that there are no early paradises. And yet .. and yet...

I think paradise, for human beings, has always been that which is unattainable.  In the mid-nineteenth century, it was perceived as the place where one could stay warm in the winter, cool in the summer, always have enough food, water and clothing, and freedom from killers like measles, smallpox and diptherea.  Today, us northern hemisphere inhabitants mostly have this paradise.  The point is simple:  a past man's paradise can be a modern man's reality.

In much the same way, paradise CAN be found, even today, depending upon how its defined.  Time and again I've heard people today describe paradise as a state where we can float among the stars, free of earthly troubles, and simply drink in the magnificience of God.  I know this perception of paradise is today very common, for motion pictures and pulp novels almost always descrite it this way.  If this perception  is truly one of a paradise, then its a paradise we all can enter.  Before World War II, few of us could hope to enter;  now every one of us can.  Like food and home climate, a past man's unattainable is a modern man's reality.  The only difference is that today, only a minority of people seem to realize the gates to paradise are sold in department stores. But those of us who own a small telescope, and have really learned to use it, certainly know that it lets us float among the stars, free of eartlhy troubles, simply drinking in the magnificence of God.

I found my own corridor to paradise almost by accident.  On an impulse, I threw out $15 at a flea market for a little 60mm refractor.  Many years have passed since then, and the little scope sits there as always, quiet and unassuming, waiting to take me to paradise. It is there in front of me as I write.  Because it is small, my 60mm will not let me see deeply into space.  But what of it?  Even the greatest telescopes, galaxies beyond or own show up as little more than featureless streaks of light (at least for the most part, thats true).  To really grasp the magnificence of the universe, we must see it up close.  Nebulae, clusters, individual stars and objects of the solar system - these are the elements of our own galaxy we can see up close   And we don't need a big scope for that.  On the contrary, the wider viewfield and sharper imagery of the small instrument makes it better than the huge-eye reflector for seeing things up close.

With a low power widefield eyepiece (like a 25mm Kelner, for example), I can float among the breathtaking starfields of Cygnus, Sagittarius, Cassiopea and Monoceros.  Or I can gasp at the haunting black dust clouds scattered everywhere along the cloud of the Milky Way.  With a higher power eyepiece, I can sit galvanized at the beauty of the individual stars.  Most stars are binaries or multiple, but small instruments won't resolve them all, but of those that are resolvable, I've found nothing of earth or sky more breathtakingly beautiful.

Whatever you do in this life, don't let that little scope of yours sit idle.  It offers you the corridor to paradise.  Whether its the glorious binary Castor, the haunting cloud of Serpens, the splashy Beehive Cluster or fantastic globulars like M3, M5, and M13, the magnificence of our universe awaits you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Took the Gare Challenge

The challenge was simple, yet difficult. Spend 15 uninterrupted minutes under the stars, doing NOTHING ELSE. Alone. All 15. Just looking at the stars. And then write down your impressions. And the guarantee? Well .. you would remember it all your life. How is this possible though, how could 15 minutes of NOTHING be memorable? Maybe its because there IS no nothing in our lives anymore. No reflection. No meditation. No listening. Really listening.

I hadnt planned on taking the challenge as I went out in the predawn night on Wednesday, April 18. It was cloudy, depressingly so, but as I walked toward the barn aimlessly I looked up suddenly .. and it was clearing! Right then I knew .. it was challenge time. I have an observatory llooking west where I am wont to watch the sun set whenever I can. Its my stonehenge, I watch the sun go down far south and far north throughout the year. It sits under a 30 foot pine I planted as a baby 20 years ago. It has a clear view of the horizon. My observatory is a chair. A chair I sit in and observe the heavens. Does that surprise you? My eyes are spyglasses, therefore my observatory can be a chair. To be continued

Distant sounds

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Time Traveller by Patrick Thibault (from Issue 22)

As of late, I have found myself forgetful and wondering what happened a few days ago, or even the week before. Unable to place my finger on any cause or factor, I stumble through each moment in hope of remaining somewhat conscious of my time. Time seems to be the key element involved in my disorientation. There are so many types of time, especially if you have any interest in astronomy: solar time, Greenwich Mean Time, sidereal time, and lunar time to name just a few, not to mention our Central, Eastern, or Mountain time.

I have learned that in order to discover the source of a problem, questions must be asked. I ask now, what time is it? My watch indicates that it is 10:15 AM, April 12, 1995. It is approximately 22 days past the first day of spring, however, there is fresh snow covering the landscape and clouds prevent detection of the sun. Outside of my south facing window, Jack Frost has created a handsome winterscape, but it is no longer winter. Spring, with its greening, rain, and Daylight Savings Time is here. And I know from looking at the night sky only a week ago some of the constellations of Spring were seen: Leo, Arcturus in Bootes, and Spica rising in the northeast. But my most recent S&T told of planetary positions in May, which I had received at the end of March, possibly this was the source of my confusion. Could it be that my reality, which consists of many time frames, be unadjusted to magazine time?

After patting myself on the back for such brilliant scientific inquiry, I began to go through my file of magazines. Indeed, I found an association among all astronomy literature. Astronomy Magazine followed S&T’s delivery rate, they were ahead of time as well, May in March, January in November. Even SGN, when I first joined, delivered May in March. There appeared to be a common time element - Magazine Time (MT). I called local Astronomy club members to see if they too received astronomy materials in MT. The pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, but the mechanism was still unknown. I had read ‘The Time Machine’ by HG Wells, so it was possible. Could the postal service have a time machine? Certainly with the costs of stamps going up over time there was reason to believe that a machine of this sort would not be cheap.

Please fellow SGN’ers. I would appreciate a word in the mail (but do not date it) if you experience this time disorientation as well. Perhaps only some of us are susceptible to this oddity, but I feel that I’m probably not alone.

Thank you.