Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Observatory

Four hundred years ago Galileo, for the first time ever, looked at the sky through a telescope. Now in 2009 the world is celebrating the International Year of Astronomy. Here at Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, we too are celebrating the opening of our own observatory looking at the night sky with an instrument so much more powerful than Galileo could ever have imagined.

Pictured are long time personal friends and supporters of the Preserve, Kerby and Judy Confer. They donated the observatory which was originally constructed on their Blanco County ranch. The Confers live in Baltimore, Maryland. After witnessing our school program with volunteers from the Austin Astronomical Society, the Confers saw that the observatory would serve a much better service to society here at Selah than on their ranch where it was used by them infrequently. Now because of their generosity we have added the night sky as an additional classroom. Thus, Awakening and Nourishing a Passion for Learning. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Here on “Majic Springs”, the Confer’s Blanco County ranch, is Justin Duke of BRP, Arlyn Cook, one of our volunteers, Steven Fulton our Ranch Biologist inside the dome and Ken Voss, Majic Springs Ranch Manager. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

The observatory has been unbolted from the cement slab and the telescope removed. Steven Fulton guides the dome onto our trailer. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

Arlyn Cook, one of our volunteers, who is a retired industrial engineer, handled the disconnection of the solar powered electrical system. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

The solar panel keeps two batteries charged. It supplies enough energy to open the dome and operate the Celestron 1400 telescope which is computer programmed to track various planets and stars. Arlyn, Justin and Steven along with, back to camera, volunteer Dana Spontak. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

I’m sure that passing cars wondered just what was Steven hauling on State Highway 290. The dome was securely strapped to our trailer and no mishaps occurred. Majic Springs is only 15 miles from Selah. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

It’s arrival at the ranch created a lot of curiousity. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

There was a lot of time and construction involved in preparation for the dome’s arrival. The PVC tube had to be perfectly level as it would support the telescope. Here, Steven and Scott Grote, Ranch Operations Manger, are adjusting the PVC tube. The metal box holds the batteries which power the scope. It will be anchored into the cement. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

Here on the ranch, I have a reputation for insisting that gates and posts, tree corrals and such be level. Sometimes walking up to a project during construction and eye balling something and commenting – “It’s not level.” Here Steven and I are “eye balling” whether it’s level or not. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

“Eye balling” is not enough. So here I am using a level. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

The site was chosen by the Astronomy Club volunteers which required some leveling and tree removal. Selah is ideal for sky watching as we are far from the light pollution of Austin and San Antonio. Futhermore, the hills shield any local light. Pictured are volunteer Arlyn Cook, Scott Grote, volunteer Dana Spontak and Justin Duke of BRP. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

The cement arrives. Leroy Petri, Ranch Engineer, directs the cement while seasonal ranch employees, Raul and Maestro, spread the mix while Steven Fulton and Scott Grote level the cement out. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

The solar panel has to be adjusted so that it receives the most sunlight. Here, Steven Fulton and Scott Grote check it out. Photograph taken by J. David.

Dana Spontak, a volunteer, helped build the cedar post steps that provide easy and safe access to the observatory. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

Herve LaPuente, a member the Austin Astronomy Club who has been volunteering here by providing night sky education programs for our overnight students. Herve (pronounced Err-vey) is excited and so enthusiastic about the observatory and the powerful Celestron 1400 scope. The telescope has to be programmed. It must be in a certain alignment with the North Star and once this is accomplished just a push of programmed buttons will turn the scope to Jupiter, the Moon, Saturn or any number of things in the night sky. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

Chris Johnson took this long exposure picture by the light of the full moon, November 1, 2009, during our yearly volunteer appreciation party. Notice the sky, the stars and the streak of the meteor/satellite/airplane at the lower right of center. Chris has been volunteering with us for years, both as a photographer and computer expert. He’s invaluable. Photograph taken by Chris Johnson.

It’s confession time for me. I don’t know how to turn a computer on. I write this blog, Lois Sturm, my right arm, types it and also takes pictures and sends it to Chris who posts it each Sunday night. Here’s my testimony. Most non-profits cannot survive without volunteers. The good work and good deeds in America don’t get done by government. It’s the hundreds of thousands of people, who are givers not takers that contribute their individual talents and time to causes they believe in that make organizations like ours successful. All the money in the world cannot buy passion.

Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve receiving our observatory coincides with 2009 being celebrated as the International Year of Astronomy. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 has a website where you can find more information and pictures of the universe. Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve will continue in Galileo’s steps opening other’s eyes to what is a part of their world.

In the past ten months of writing this blog, you have seen the many education programs we do for kids and adults. Won’t you please support this with a yearend tax deductible contribution? We are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636.

No comments: