Stargazing

Adventures in Stargazing

My interest in astronomy began in the 4th or 5th grade when I had to write a report on Jupiter. I got a Sears 60mm refractor for Christmas that year and I was hooked. No astronomy clubs in the area – I never dreamed there was such a thing. I would get up in the middle of the night and go out for an hour or so.  At some point I decided to see something that was low in the south, and I set up my telescope on the roof.  For whatever reason, my parents didn’t object!  I remember our roof was made of chipped marble over I guess tar of some sort.  Only roof like that I ever saw, I guess it worked, I don’t remember any leaks, but you had to be careful walking around up there.  I would get up in the middle of the night, go out and climb up the ladder and observe for a bit. I can’t imagine that lasted too long.  My dad gave me a copy of Olcott’s Field Book Of The Skies, and while I don’t have the scope anymore, I still have that book, and I still love it.  Many, many nights with that and a flashlight with red paper over the lens. And all the library books I could find – mostly Patrick Moore back then.  Lots of fond memories of nights just looking at the stars, without all the stuff I think I have to have now.  But all that stuff I think I have to have now helps me see more than 5th grade Harry ever dreamed of.

Another memory from the 60s… Millsaps College had an observatory, the only one nearby.  Somehow my dad found out they were having a viewing night for their astronomy class, and got permission for us to join in.  They had a huge telescope – well, it was a 6″ refractor, but all I knew at the time was it was huge compared to my 60mm. Years later I found out that it was a 6″ refractor with an Alvan Clark primary. Now I have a scope that is twice the size, but then…wow! Jupiter was amazing.  Sadly, the observatory fell into disuse and neglect, but a few years ago the college did at least some restoration, to the observatory and the scope.  In 2017 a friend who is a professor at the college let me know they were going to have a limited open house at the observatory, would I like to go? Oh heck yeah!  Such a fine way to relive a little of young Harry’s fascination with the world of astronomy! 

6″ Clark refractor at James Observatory, Millsaps College, Jackson MS

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