Inspired by the response to my post on the need to keep our gardens dark, I decided to reclaim my childhood telescope from my mom’s garage and get it working again. It occurred to me that I haven’t looked up at the night sky in a long time. What a shame. This past week I’ve been thinking about how important it is to look up at the stars–just as important, I think, as staying in touch with the plants, insects and animals that make this earth a paradise.
The design of this telescope is called a Dobsonian, after its inventor John Dobson, who passed away earlier this year. Dobson’s life took an unusual trajectory. He went from being a self described “belligerent atheist” to a monk in the Vendanta society to co-founding the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers. Most of his life was spent bringing the night sky to people around the world and teaching people how to make their own low-cost telescopes.
As a monk, Dobson could not afford expensive materials. He kept the design inexpensive by using a simple mount and cheap materials: wood and cardboard. My Dobsonian was made by the now defunct Coulter Optical Company out of particle board and a cardboard concrete form. Its large 13.1 inch mirror makes it perfect for looking at nebulas, galaxies and star clusters even in light polluted urban areas.
I have to thank, in particular, Rob J of the San Jose Astronomical Association who sent some links about how to host a star party, how to host a school star party and inspired me to get the telescope out again.
Here’s some Dobson related resources:
Sidewalk Astronomers “We take telescopes TO the public – on street corners, public parks, in front of bookstores -wherever there are crowds of people.”
Have Telescopes Will Travel–a short film about John Dobson.