Monday, September 7, 2009

Generosity of Astronomers

Soon after I became interested in Astronomy, I began to learn how generous astronomers are. I was around the age of 12 years old when I was bit by the astronomy bug. I remember meeting the local astronomy group in my hometown of San Angelo, outside of Hasting's Books Store; they had telescopes on display outside. Soon, I joined up.

I was lucky to know a man by the name of Ted H., a local architect and builder who lived about a block from my house. I credit Ted, for my love of astronomy today. Ted would pick me up for each meeting that the San Angelo Astronomical Association had. I believe he also paid for my membership for a few years. After meetings, we usually ended up a the local Denny's and Ted usually picked up the tab on that too when I found my allowance lacking.

Soon, I became Ted's assistant astronomer, see he owned a solid tube Meade Dobsonian size 16", needless to say it took two people to set up and load in his Ford Expedition. So, before star parties I'd walk over to his house then we'd load up that huge white tube in his SUV on a custom built holder that prevented it from rolling around. Then we'd drive out to the star party. Sometimes it was at the West Texas Boys Ranch where we showed the wonders of space to the residents there, but more often then not we headed to Nova Ranch west of San Angelo, Texas. Once I remember Ted offering to take me to Texas Star Party but my parents didn't want me to take off school for that.

I remember Ted teaching me how to use his 16" dobsonian, he taught me how to navigate the stars by star hopping using the Telrad and SkyAtlas 2000 epoch as my guide. What an experience for a Junior High Student! Today, I own many telescopes including a Meade Lightbridge 16" (one gets spoiled on aperture).

When I wanted to get my first "real" telescope, it was Ted who gave me my first job ever. I worked to clean up his construction sites and also to do some odd jobs around his house. For all that Ted and his wife Rose has done I'm truly grateful, for I wouldn't be the astronomer I am today if it weren't for Ted and Rose.

There were many other members of the San Angelo group that I learned to appreciate such as Bruce M. who used to occasionally take me to star parties in his Gold Ford Van with the Club's logo attached on the sides. Bruce also let me the use of the 6" Celestron Telescope you see in the photo above. Also, the owners of Nova Hill for allowing us to come make use of the dark skies (their names have slipped my mind).

I've lost contact with much of those people in the San Angelo group who helped my start in astronomy but I'm grateful to each and everyone of them.

I moved to San Antonio about 2 years ago and I found the generosity that I found in San Angelo to be alive and well here in the San Antonio Astronomical group. Soon after moving I bought a 10" dobsonian off Craigslist and one night, my first time at the dark sky site, one man gave me a nice old used 32mm eyepeice that I used for about a year until that fateful day a while back when it shattered on the floor of my garage. This act of kindness was by a man I only met minutes before!

Last January, I started to build my own telescope a 4.5" f/8 Reflector and I found many of the needed parts from members of the San Antonio group who willingly gave me parts for free for my sub $100 telescope project.

At star parties I've been able to share filters and eyepieces with fellow astronomers and if it weren't for this openness I'd never have seen the Veil Nebula in my 16" Thanks to Bryan and Bill for lending me an OII and UHC filters on several occasions. At my last star party I forgot my star chart and Bryan was quick to offer one he had.

I hope that people will come to know me as a generous person just like I remember these people that I have mentioned. Recently I have started on a pet project of sorts. If i come across a "beginner" scope at a garage sale of thrift store I try to by it with the intentions of making it more usable by reworking the mount and working on focuser to have it use 1.25" eyepieces instead of the inferior .965's. I currently have 2 60mm refractors I intend of fixing up and then giving to budding astronomers.

I'm sure it is a safe bet that you're into astronomy because someone at one time was generous to you. Post a comment and share your story.


Risk said...

Great story! Some of the best folks like to look at the sky.