Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

August 10, 2009

Curator welcomes telescope upgrade

Downstate man donates to NMC

(Continued)

The Meade telescope debuted during a July 11 public viewing after ACE Welding in Traverse City created a custom mount.

Since then, the idea for the second dome has been gaining steam. It could house the Celestron telescope and double the amount of viewing time for students and the public. Plus students could still master the theory of locating astronomical objects manually, as the old equipment is not computer controlled. Upstairs in the larger dome they would use the 21st century technology, where the touch of a button orients the telescope.

"It's the best of both worlds for them," Dobek said.

The NMC Astronomy Club is taking the fundraising lead for the second dome, hoping to net just under $15,000 to purchase the ten-foot-dome kit.

Formed last year on a wave of astronomy enthusiasm from Dobek's classes, the club has just a dozen students. But they think big, committing themselves to helping the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society host weekly public viewings all year in honor of 2009 being the International Year of Astronomy. The two clubs alternate weekly hosting duties and so far the Friday or Saturday evening viewings have averaged 100 attendees.

"We've had nights where we had cars all the way down the hill and down the road, people walking up the hill," said Scott Romain of Big Rapids, a member and NMC grad who commutes up for every club night. "Even on cloudy nights we have 30 people."

"It's not an average thing for a community college to have such a strong program," he said. "I think it's a huge asset to the community and that's kind of where the club came in: promoting that asset."

The next public view at the Rogers Observatory featuring the new Meade telescope will be from 9 to 11 p.m. on Friday. The observatory is located at 1753 Birmley Road. A schedule of viewings for the rest of the year is located at www.gtastro.org, select Viewing nights: 2009.

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