Tales From Under the Starry Sky – Week 2

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John here once again, with the second installment of our weekly story time.

Today’s tale comes to us from Jo Ann Salci.  Jo Ann has been a wonderful addition to the HAA, involving herself in club activities and observing.  I was smart enough to invite her on to council a couple of years back and she is now our Education Director, offering wonderful programming to groups all around the city.  She has a real gift for dealing with the public, and has enhanced the children’s programming tremendously. She represents the club admirably and, well…basically makes us look good out there!

Her story today is something that, in one form or another, we can all relate to.  A big thank you to Jo Ann for sharing this with us. 

If you would like to share your story in an upcoming week please feel free to send it in to me (chair@amateurastronomy.org).  We would all love to hear from you.  For now, enjoy this week’s story, and please stay safe.

And now, here’s Jo Ann…  __________________________________________________________  

“As a young girl in a US elementary school in the 1960s, becoming an astronomer seemed like a remote option.  That didn’t stop me from loving the night sky and being in awe of its wonders.  
My first memory is a striking one. Not only was it striking, but it was the beginning of my love of the night sky.  Somehow, my 9 year old cousin and I learned that our local science museum held Wednesday night observing sessions using the museum’s large telescope.  I don’t remember how large it really was, but they opened a large dome at the museum for this telescope.  The dome exists until this day at the top of the Buffalo Museum of Science, although I’m not sure if the telescope is still there.
So there we were, a pair of 9 year old girls, dragging our fathers (who took turns!!) to the Buffalo Museum of Science on Wednesday nights.  The first time I looked through the telescope and saw the moon, I never looked back.  That was the beginning of my love for astronomy and I had told my parents at that point that I wanted to be an astronomer.  The vivid detail of the moon’s surface was etched in my mind.  The light and dark areas, the craters, the peaks…seeing the moon with a telescope changed how I saw the moon and the night sky forever!  The moon literally “filled my eyes like a big pizza pie”, and I fell in love with Astronomy!!

   –  The 8″ refractor at the Buffalo Museum of Science

Flash forward to now…I consider myself a VERY amateur astronomer, yet I became one as I had wished for as a child.  I had taken an Astronomy 101 course at Mohawk College back in the 1990’s, and guess who the instructor was?  Our very own John Gauvreau!  So when I joined the HAA about 6 years ago, and saw a familiar face, I knew right away I was in the right place.  At that point in time I owned a cumbersome 4″ reflector telescope on a grumpy equatorial mount, purchased from a big box store.  I’ve since upgraded (as club members are great at helping me spend my money and they know who they are!).  I now own a 5″ Schmidt-Cassegrain and a 6″ Dobsonion.  I have also purchased a great set of binoculars, and have accumulated a number of filters and eyepieces. I have even enjoyed 2 Star Party outings…a definite Bucket-list item.
I credit those early days with bringing me to this point. Even though I consider myself a very amateur astronomer, I took on the role of HAA Education Director because I absolutely love sharing the joy of astronomy with others.  I just love when people look through a telescope for the first time at the moon or any other object in the sky.  Their reactions are similar to what mine was…the surprise, the awe, and the disbelief at how much there is to see on the moon and in the sky. It’s almost as though the moon is sending an invitation for us to see the rest of the night sky with that same sense of surprise and wonder. Children’s reactions are the best!  I had one child ask if I had put a picture of Saturn inside my telescope!  They couldn’t believe they were seeing the “real thing”.
Whenever you show someone an object through your telescope, try not to take it for granted.  You have no idea the impact that it will have on them.  Who knows?  You might be showing the moon, or planet, or … to a future Hamilton Amateur Astronomer!”   

   –   Jo Ann Salci