A Guide to the Sky, Telescopes, and Telescope Programs
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What Good is a Telescope?
Telescopes do more than make little things look big. Pictures do that quite well. Some of the pictures can definitely make you say wow. Pictures taken by multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar telescopes reveal far more detail than anything that you will ever see in a telescope. Excellent pictures taken by experienced amateurs, using equipment costing as little as a few thousand dollars, also reveal stunning detail that not only are beautiful, but are of increasing scientific value.
What even very inexpensive telescopes do, however, in a way that no other medium or instrument can do, is CONNECT you to the universe in a very visceral and emotional way. You get an emotional impact when you SEE Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons or a millions of stars in a ball (Globular Clusters) or a galaxy’s 100 billion stars in a wisp of “cloud”.
The light from the actual object is actually hitting your actual eyeball. You are materially connected to the heavens via a direct unbroken trail of photons.
The Hubble photograph may stir your brain; those star-flung photons literally excite your eyes, stimulate your imagination and, may, perhaps, impact your soul.
What's up tonight? Click here for the scoop. Hint: Saturn! Summer Milky Way! Perseus Meteor showers (August 2015)
New: "Fun" Equipment Recommendations!
A page on Solar Observing has been added.
The Observing Guide section is reasonably functional, if not totally complete.
June 25, 2015: I don't do paid advertising (because no one will pay me and my objectivity must be astigmatism-free), but I had a wonderful experience with Daniel Mounsey with Woodland Hills Cameras and Telescopes. He is proof that a good portion of the meaning in astronomy comes not from the stars in the sky, but from the stars on the ground. His enthusiasm is the first thing you notice, his eagerness to share the joy of astronomy the second thing, and his expertise is pretty much impossible to ignore. Here are some links to one of the many impressive figures in a observing community full of great people.
Note: I overheard the weirdest conversation between him and another luminary, Jon Isaacs, about pupil diameters and ex-girlfriends. I didn't think telescopes concentrate cosmic rays, but now I wonder...
Having a successful evening under the stars, requires appropriate equipment, some familiarity with the equipment and with the sky. A program successful over the long-term must ensure a consistently good user experience and minimize the in-house staff support load.
At the beginning of 2011 Bentley Systems, Inc. has awarded a series of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Grants to Curie Elementary, and Mission Bay High Schools towards the purchase of telescope equipment to be available to students and their families.
Jeff Martin, a Bentley Systems employee and father of a a student at Curie Elementary, has pledged initial implementation and ongoing support until such time as no longer needed. His goal is to use the Telescope Program at Curie Elementary as a pilot program to create an online resource enabling other groups to start their own telescope sharing programs.
See the individual school's page.
Curie Elementary has its scopes. They have been released into the wild. We have held three training sessions.
Mission Bay High School received their scope on Wednesday 3/16/11, and has had equipment instruction.
A number of decisions to be made are listed here.
Amateur Astronomy Clubs have a long history of public outreach. The New Hampshire Astronomical Society Library Telescope Program is a successful program and a valid guide to what should be a successful school program. An integral part of the success of the NHAS program is the "Scope Foster Parent". Jeff has committed his services to provide guidance and support until the program has no need of him - details here.
Note: the NHAS program is nothing more than a guide; all control of policies and equipment will remain with schools.
minimal. see the estimated cost sheet.
Questions or comments? Email:Jeff Martin