This year was my first Stellafane. The 7 hour drive, was the only bad thing, but it was we'll worth the trip. And I'd do again in a second.
This was like no other. When I arrived I was amazed how many people are there. John Denoff "he helped me with my scope" said, this is the grad daddy of all things, this is Stellafane.
After I got around, checking out the mirror grinding "under the tent" was the best. The high light of my year was interviewing David H. Levy.
— Beginning of interview with David Levy —
Hannahoe: Who do you admire in Astronomy?
Levy: I have a number of mentors. I think the first one I had was a lady named Elizabeth Willyansome. It was the first lady I met, coming into the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, when I was growing up. And what happened was, I walked into this building and there she was and here was this lunar map. It has 300 craters numbered 1-300, and 26 Mt. Ranges numbered A-Z and what I want you do to is to make your own map. Through a Telescope and see all of these features. So here I was 12 years old and I had an assessment that would take me a couple of years to complete. So this is a tremendous way of starting out in Astronomy.
Then I went to Denver. I was asthmatic, so I went to a place in Denver to get rid of it, and when I was there I met Clyde Tombaugh. (The discover of Pluto.) He became a very, very good friend, and mentor of mine. Is one of the people I wrote in my bio. I always admired him as in always a fact that he > started out as a farm boy. Then he went on to discover a planet.
Another was Minebach, "Milky Way Astronomer." He was a very fine person, and someone who I always admired. I knew him mostly when I was a child. He had written The Big Book of Stars.
Another one was Leslie Peltier, who was very special to me, ever since I read his bio. Is Available called Star Light Nights. Was his book that really gave me the dealing that I not just wanted to be an astronomer.
And finally Walter Scott Houston. Scotty was a good friend of Lessees. Scotty taught me, don't tell people what you're going to do in Astronomy, just go ahead and do it.
Hannahoe: Would you like to build a telescope?
Levy: What I prefer is to observe with telescopes.
Hannahoe: Do you desire a career in astronomy/science?
Levy: Maybe I should say if I'm enjoying it? " Yes very much." I'm not a professional Astronomer. But Iam a full time writer. Also, a pretty much so full time observer.
Hannahoe: What do you do in your astronomy club?
Levy: Right now, I'm just a member. I was the president a number of years ago. The club I was in is the Tosaun Amateur Astronomy Association. I'm now honor president of the Montreal center and the Kingston of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. I'm also a member of American Association of Verbal Star observers.
Hannahoe: What was your first telescope?
Levy: My first telescope was a "Sky Scope." It was a 3.5inch f/11 reflector, and my uncle walked in with it one (after noon) December of 1960. I was just in heaven when I saw it. I still have that telescope and also use it a lot. But theirs nothing like your first telescope.
Hannahoe: What is a good science fair project?
Levy: The one that I did, when I went to a camp not far from here. The Andorondoct Science Camp. The project that I did was to simply display my observing log. But at the time it contained 600 sessions. Each one listed and careful written down. So I had no problem with what I did. 'It was not a how to thing." It was just a record of all the observing I have done. That worked for me. That was a project that I had. I enjoyed it and it didn't require any mathematics.
Hannahoe: How can astronomy help me get into a better college?
Levy: That is a very profound question. When I first went to college I first wanted to be an Astronomer. I learned very quickly that I wasn't going to become a professional astronomer, because I didn't have the math. I was very good at mid level math, but when it came to Calculus and Physics. I wasn't all that good. So I transferred into Geology. Than again into English. I discovered amazing things. Poets throughout the ages have done amazing job with Astronomy. I ended up getting 2 degrees a BS and Masters, writing about Astronomy and literature. I was able to do that, and thoroughly enjoy doing it. And I is still a passion of mine readying, poetry, and prose. That's not just poetry when I sit down and write something about the night skies. Shakespeare, who takes the battle between Astrology and Astronomy, and puts it right into his place, and makes it an intellectual part. That's Shakespeare's most famous plays written, and maybe the most famous writer who ever lived. He's most famous play was King Leer. Eclipses had a big role in that. "So astronomy isn't just for Astronomers it's for everybody." It's for Poets, writers, it's for everyone else.
To answer your question. Yes, Astronomy can be used to get into a better college. But don't just look at the narrow physics part of Astronomy. Look how it spread its tentacles into just about ever aspect of life.
Geology, we are probably here today because a comet collided with the earth, 65 million years ago, destroying the Dinosaurs. The organ of life probably comes from comets. Biology has to do with it, and of course SETI, is very much about Biology. Then you have to look at other areas, that nothing to do with science at all. Like art, interpreting some of the great paintings. Thus "Starry Night," like Poetry, Prose and all kinds of things. Astronomy goes into everything. I think that's in proportion when you apply to college.
Hannahoe: Can I help my club with Astronomy?
Levy: When I was 14, I started my own Astronomy club. "Amateur Astronomers Association." The reason I did that was the Montreal club, you couldn't join until you were 16. So I started my own club. I really enjoyed doing that. I think it's important to look at Astronomy to know why you want to be active in it. Is it you want to meet other people? Is it that you want to be involved in the political part of Astronomy? Do you just want to share you knowledge with other people? All those are reasons to joining an astronomy club. If your interested in clubs than its an important part of Astronomy.
Hannahoe: What first got you interested in Astronomy?
Levy: I was riding my bike to school. In 6th grade in 1960, and I hit a curb, fell off and broke my arm. My cousin gave me a book about the Planets as a get well present.
Hannahoe: Where is your favorite observing site?
Levy: I'd have to say my back yard, in Tosaun, which is right at my home. I have a 16" telescope, and about 13 other scopes. I can see 7th magnitude stars from that location.
Hannahoe: How can I fight light pollution in my community?
Levy: I think you are already doing that when you joined IDA. I think you've done that very nicely. You've gotten a really good start on it. Now how could you do it? The same way you're doing it Ryan. I became a member of IDA. I've been writing an awful lot of articles about Dark Skies. I wrote an article about a year and half ago for Parade Magazine. I also wrote a planetarium show, called Dark Skies. I've written countless articles on Sky & Telescope, including one about the Stellafane problem. Since I'm a writer the best way would be to contribute to write about it.
Hannahoe: What if I discover a comet or nova?
Levy: It's been 6 years since I found a comet. If I where to discover another one I would careful note its position, and its direction. I would than send an email to the Central Bureau for Astronomical telegrams. To Brian Martian, I would include the position, rate of motion, of the brightness of the a comet which is very important to do. I would continue to observe it and hope it doesn't get lost.
A Nova wile I was doing research for my Biography Kildtomba. I found out going through his observing notes that he in fact observed a Nova, and never reported it. I went into some Harvard portal photographs. I was able to fin this Nova that he found. There were 10 other outburst of it in the years. Then I went ahead and started observing that field, for about 6 months and I found a star in outburst again. So I than reported this as a long series of observations. Now called TV like Television Carve. It's in corvess. It's now a recurring Nova. This was one of my most satisfying things that I've been involved in.
Hannahoe: "I will probably never discover a comet or a Nova."
Levy: "Well, you might, how old are you know"?
Levy: When I was 15 I hadn't found anything.
Hannahoe: What Astronomical League observing clubs are best for teens?
Levy: The best one is the one that started out in Houston called the Universe > Sampler. It is a superb way to get teens involved, I would very much promote that. The Messier Club is very important. Once you're a teen and you have a fairly dark sky you can start observing.
Hannahoe: My club is not affiliated with the AL? What do I do?
Levy: That's not always the easiest thing to do. My club in Tucson is not affiliated. I've been trying to get in affiliated for years and it has not worked. There's a lot of politics are involved in it. The best thing to do is to write to one of the officers of the League. To get information on how a club could join. Then present it to the board. Say why you think this is a good idea, it's not that expensive. But the main thing it gives your club a national presents. A little club in a little city, can now be a part of a national league / organization. That is the best reason for joining the Astronomical League.
Hannahoe: What does Astronomy do for you?
Levy: Everything! Before I got married, Astronomy was my whole life but now is almost my whole life. I find it a very satisfying life. I do it all the time. This is not a whole lot of time that I'm doing something related to Astronomy. So to me the answer is everything.
Hannahoe: What in Astronomy do you find "fun"?
Levy: Just about ever aspect of it. I enjoy going to conventions like this. I really so enjoy it, it's fun. It's a way of enjoying the sky with other people. I don't get to enough conferences. Because I'm so busy right now I kind of limit it to just a couple a year. But I love going to them. The part that I find fun is observing, with my telescopes and hunt for comets. That's my favorite activity in the world.
Hannahoe: How can a teenager make a difference in Astronomy today?
Levy: Teenagers have the enthueasium that's further by experience. I went throughout a lot of decades of disappointments, and pleasures about Astronomy. But most teenagers haven't seen the disappointments of astronomy, they got the enthusiasm for something there just starting and not any of the disappointments that come with life. So teenagers to me tend to be enthusiastic about astronomy and tend to get it started. They have the energy you don't need to sleep right? "No" said Ryan. When you get to be older you'll find staying up all night is more difficult. When you a teenager you can miss a whole nights sleep.
Hannahoe: List some things that you have done in Astronomy in the past year.
Levy: I have written 3 books, bio. Of Gene Shoemaker my CO-discover. The scientific book of the cosmos, includes The heavens declare the glory of God, at Stellafane witch is the most important astronomical article scientific ever wrote. I also wrote a book of last summer's eclipse. I've done a lot of hours of comet hunting and yet no discovery. I did discover a ring of stars. While comet hunting. Which we call Wendee's ring after my wife? But I'm enjoying astronomy as much as ever. The most important thing is that I expanded the observatory that I used. What size scope's do you use? I have a 16inch, 8," 6", 8" Schmidt camera, 10 Cass, 8" Cass, my 3.5 inch. There are 5 more used as finders. (It's quite a bit but they're this observatory to house them.) It's about 12' wide and 32' long.
Hannahoe: Astronomy is one of the very few hobbies that one can sit with their heroes or peers and discuss the heavens, and I have.
— End of interview with David Levy —
Than came the Friday night talks. My favorite one was when Brian Lula spoke on the Heavens Glory Observatory and when Peter Chen spoke on light weight mirrors.
The swap meet. O yes the swap meet. Everything I could dream of at affordable prices. After that I wondered up to the scope contest. I waited until it was time for me to be judged. After being judged I'd say at least I had 500 people take a look at the scope during the day. I'm already starting plains for my next scope for Stellafane the 10" f/7.
The BBQ is one of the highlights. The chicken was great and the pickles were too. But Saturday night presentations began. With the awards. This year I have gotten 1st place junior, the 2nd Horkheimer and a special award. After that David Levy spoke. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met. The 2 hour talk on the 200 inch telescope. I enjoyed it somewhat. Thus ended my endeavor of Stellafane.
I will be back next year!
Always in Astronomy, Ryan
Hannahoe, Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society
Youth Activities Chairman & ALCON2001 Webmaster for the Astronomical League
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