The Celestial Observer – January, 2014

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From the President

John Dobson

John Dobson

My friends, My column this month will center around the loss of John Dobson, who unfortunately passed away on January 15th at the age of 98. I can’t think of anyone who had a greater or more positive impact on amateur astronomy than John. There are plenty of on-line articles about his contribution to our hobby, but I think the impact that he had can only truly be appreciated by, as I once did, going to a library and looking at back issues of Sky and Telescope and Astronomy magazines from the late 70’s into the 80’s and 90’s and seeing how he “completely” changed the landscape of amateur astronomy, first with the amateur telescope makers and later with the commercial scopes. And he did it almost accidentally, and in a completely unselfish way.

I met John once, at Stellafane in 2009. We shared a view of M13 in a 30 inch Dobsonian telescope with a 21mm Ethos eyepiece that I will never forget. I asked John how it felt to see so many telescopes of his design in use, and his reply was that he preferred to refer to them as “Sidewalk Telescopes”. He was a truly humble man.

I will think of this man every time I observe with my own Dobsonian telescope, and all other Dobs with which I will be lucky enough to observe.

Rest in peace, John. I hope heaven has ebony star and virgin Teflon.

Please send comments and questions to See you at our February meeting.

Clear skies,
Bryan Stone

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News, Correspondence, and Upcoming Activities:

Star Party Update

We have a busy season ahead of us. It will start with an “Astronomy Hobby Night” at the Tewksbury library on Tuesday, Feb 4th at 7PM. A short presentation about the club and our activities will be followed by a Q&A session and, if weather allows, going outside to point out the winter constellations.

NSAAC will also participate in Salem Science Night on Thursday, March 13th at 5PM with some table top exhibits and scopes (indoor event).

We already have ten Star Party requests and/or reschedules from the fall that we couldn’t do; if a couple of the usual spring requests are made we’ll have over a dozen. If the club is to commit to these this will be one of our busiest spring schedules yet.

Due to Salem State on Mondays and Merrimack on Wednesdays star party dates are generally restricted to Tuesdays and Thursdays (though sometimes we make exceptions for things like the Essex Heritage Weekends). Usually this is with Tuesday as the primary date and Thursday as a backup date. Generally I also try and avoid a few days before to a few days after full moon. This leaves a limited number of days.

These events will generally need 5 or 6 scopes. As Star Party coordinator I need to know we’ll have enough people before I can schedule things out. For the spring I’m going to try a different method to gauge availability. I’ll post an email to the list with details.

Hopefully this spring we can see some new faces at these events as a dozen new volunteers along with the volunteers from the fall would allow us to handle the bulk of the requests. Science educators see clear benefits from hands on activities for school children, and adults also enjoy the opportunity to look through telescopes. No special skills are needed to assist at Star Parties, if you can aim your scope at the moon or a planet that’s all that’s needed. No scope? Pointing out constellations to people waiting in line is a great help.

Many times we’re asked to give short 30 minute presentations before observing and if you have an interest in doing this there are plenty of opportunities.

I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a huge thanks again to all of the volunteers that assisted this past fall with these events.

Star Pary Coordinator,

January Business Meeting Minutes
President Stone called the January Business Meeting of the NSAAC to order at 8:13 PM. There were 4 members present plus 5 Board members. There was not a quorum. Meeting was informational only. >Read more.

Kids Corner: Nasa’s Space Place
Surprising Young Stars in the Oldest Places in the Universe
By Dr. Ethan Siegel
Littered among the stars in our night sky are the famed deep-sky objects. These range from extended spiral and elliptical galaxies millions or even billions of light years away to the star clusters, nebulae, and stellar remnants strewn throughout our own galaxy. But there’s an intermediate class of objects, too: the globular star clusters, self-contained clusters of stars found in spherically-distributed halos around each galaxy. >Read more.

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