Eyes to the sky
New amateur astronomer uses 'traveling telescope' to get acquainted with universe
By Richard Zowie— Kathy Weaver has always enjoyed looking at the night sky, but when she was younger, her hobby in astronomy had to wait due to one particular inconvenience.
Growing up in a city with lights, it became too difficult to view the night sky and see anything in clear enough detail.
Weaver, who has been a member of the Hill Country Astronomers for about three years, now has her chance to better enjoy the night sky.
The club loans out to its members, on a monthly basis, a traveling telescope, specifically, an Orion Skywest Intelliscope with an eight-inch lens, donated to the club by Betty and Ross Murphy.
Ryan Behrends, Weaver’s fellow club member, described the telescope as a reflector that gathers light with a mirror.
“You can see lots of galaxies, globular clusters and nebulae,” Behrends said. “It’s a very capable scope.”
A lot of astronomy clubs loan telescopes out as a way of encouraging interest and helping new amateur astronomers learn about the planets, stars, galaxies, clusters and nebulae and other celestial objects in the night sky.
Besides the loaner telescope, Weaver’s sole equipment for viewing the night sky is her father’s 60-year-old binoculars.
“I’m probably the most amateur astronomer in the group,” she said. “But I’ve always enjoyed looking into the night sky.”
Weaver has been to a few “star parties” near Eldorado and, for the first time, got to see nebulae and globular clusters.
“That’s probably the first time I’d ever seen a totally dark sky,” she said. “I’m still trying to keep all the constellations straight.”
So far, using a telescope Weaver has also seen:
Saturn (“It’s so awesome to see those rings.”);
Jupiter (“You can see the moons. Sometimes they are lined up and other times askew.”); and,
The moon (“You have to be careful since it’s so bright. We prefer looking at it when it’s at a crescent.)
Currently, Weaver is using the telescope and her binoculars to view the Messier Objects. Named after 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier, the Messier Objects are a group of 110 nebulae, galaxies and star clusters; successfully locating and identifying them is considered by some a “rite of passage” for beginning amateur astronomers.
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