Tri-State Astronomers help people learn to use telescopes during clinic

January 14, 2012|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • John Benisek, left, and William Wilson discuss Benisek's telescope during a clinic held at Discovery Station by Tri-State Astronomers.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Jim Stanicek caught a view of Saturn in his telescope.

It was during a Tri-State Astronomers star party, a gathering where the public had been invited to a special viewing of the cosmos from Antietam National Battlefield.

A young teen was next in line to peer into the telescope.

"We've got Saturn here," Stanicek said.

The girl took a cursory look and said, "Oh, OK," clearly unimpressed.

Stanicek, 62, of Hagerstown, asked whether she really saw it, if she'd viewed the rings.

"She said, 'OMG, OMG, OMG. I see them. Look at this!'" Stanicek said. "The first time they see, they really see, it's the kind of thing that boggles the mind."

It's that kind of mind-boggling wonder that Stanicek said inspires him and other members of Tri-State Astronomers to help people learn to use telescopes.

Eight representatives of the nearly 70-member club offered that help Saturday during a telescope clinic at Discovery Station in Hagerstown.

Outreach coordinator Dan Kaminsky of Hagerstown said a lot of people who have telescopes don't know how to use them properly.

"We get people to bring in telescopes that have been sitting in their closets or under their beds, or the telescopes they got for Christmas and don't know how to use. We want to get them to use them," Kaminsky said. "We can easily show people how to set it up and get it going so they can actually see the moon, planets, galaxies, nebula."

Club members helped clinic participants resolve various issues with five different telescopes — some of which were elaborate, others simple — during the three-hour clinic.

Member George Michael, 66, of Williamsport, said the group helped a father and a 7-year-old align the telescope the boy received as a Christmas gift. A grandfather and his 5-year-old grandson needed assistance learning when to use various eyepieces.

Even Michael, a 15-year veteran of the club, received some help with his antique scope at the clinic.

"It has a few issues in terms of the mechanisms. Some members helped me with tightening and adjustments, with getting everything aligned and set," Michael said.

The club hosts clinics, as well as star parties, several times a year.

Participants in Saturday's clinic received posters with bright, brilliant images of the Bullet cluster, supernova remnant Cassiopeia A and the Crab Nebula.

"No one can look at the stars and not wonder. All of us do it," Stanicek said. "When you look at the heavens, you want to gain knowledge and understand what's around us."

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