The Spyglass Network (SGN)

The Spyglass Network (SGN)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

How I Got My Own Stars

I got the idea I'd watch the stars, so I went out into the backyard clutching a small book to see them.

I couldn't see much, only the Big Dipper, there were too many lights.

I got a tiny spyglass so I could see more stars.  It didnt work, it was too shaky and I couldnt see anything

So I saved and saved and got a larger department store telescope.  Now I could see some nebulae and a bright galaxy or two, but the city lights were too bright.  It was cold in the winter.  It was hot in the summer. I couldnt stay up late.

I still couldnt watch the stars very well.  I remembered once on vacation way out in the country I had really seen the stars, but I couldnt bring them home with me. 

Then one day I got an idea.  I took a cakebox from the bakery, punched holes in it with a safety pin, and put a small light under it in my darkened room   I saw stars!

I made a small dome in my closet with poster board.  I punched more stars.  I saw the Big Dipper again, only now I could see it whenever I wanted.  No late nights.  No city lights.  No cold winters or hot summers. 

Then came life ..   high school, college, marriage, a house, jobs, a son ..  and my star dream slept until I moved to this small farm.  Then I remembered my star dream.

I got a bigger telescope and went out, but the same problems were still there. 

City lights.  Early jobs.  Cold winters.  Hot summers.   And then I remembered that cakebox in the closet. 

And I remembered saying in my own dark .. I see stars!

And so I built and drilled and learned and experimented and tested and developed until one day I went into my own little building out in my backyard..

And in my own dark I flipped a switch.

And I almost shouted with joy.

NOW.  After all these years ..   I had my own . 

I had my own stars.   Do you want to see them? 

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.