Source: Sherman Publications

News
‘Under the Lights’
Oakland Astronomy Club to host stargazing class at Brandon Library

by Susan Bromley

July 10, 2013

Ortonville- Rain or shine, clear skies or cloudy, expect a celestial show at the library Monday night.

Members of the Oakland Astronomy Club will present “Under the Lights,” from 7:30 p.m.-11 p.m., July 15 at the Brandon Township Library, 304 South St.

“If it’s clear and you have never seen Saturn through a telescope, it’s amazing,” said David Holt, events chairman for the Oakland Astronomy Club. “You will be checking the other side of the telescope to see if I painted the image on it.”

Holt will bring at least two telescopes for the program— one is a 10-inch reflector with a mirror in the bottom that collects light for deep sky views and the other is a 4-inch refractor, the classic telescope with glass lens for planetary viewing. Provided the weather is clear, the telescopes will offer views of the sun, and after dark, guests will be able to see spectacular views of the moon, Venus, and Saturn. Additionally, stargazers can see deep sky objects such as open star clusters, globular star clusters, galaxies, planetary nebula (exploded stars) and reflection nebula (clouds of dust).

“When you’ve been observing as long as I have, these are like old friends,” explained Holt. “They have seasonal significance—certain things are only viewable at certain times of the year. A lot of it is very beautiful and having an understanding of the mathematics and physics involved is fascinating.”

Holt has been interested in astronomy for more than 40 years now, since he was a teen. He describes himself as a child of the space race years and subsequently, astronomy became an amateur passion for him. In the 1990s, he joined the Oakland Astronomy Club, which meets at 7:30 p.m., the second Sunday of every month at the Dinosaur Hill Nature Center in Rochester. The club has about 35 members.

“We are always hoping to share our love of the skies and get new people involved,” Holt said. “There are very few people who appreciate outside anymore, let alone outside at night. Outside at night is a wonderful time, there are great things to see and great things to do. We see more and more that kids aren’t outside playing like when I was a kid. Everybody seems to be indoors. Outdoors is quite wonderful and astronomy is one of those things where you can spark intellectual interest, be outdoors, and be fulfilled.”

Holt or another member of the club will bring meteorites from their collection to show program participants. While Holt explained the oldest Earth rocks that can be found are about 1.3 to 1.8 billion-years-old and most are much less, the average meteorite is between 3 billion and 4.2 billion-years-old.

“So when someone hands you a meteorite, it’s older than anything you will hold in your whole life, which is fascinating,” he said. “You can be holding something older than the Earth. Some of the meteorites contain amino acids, the main building blocks of life, but they hold amino acids we don’t have reference to on Earth.”

David Bailey, also a member of the Oakland Astronomy Club, will be giving the indoor part of the presentation, exploring near sky phenomenon including sundogs, rainbows, halos, and mirages.

“It’s all about close things in the sky, things people have seen or weren’t sure what they were looking at, or never think to look at,” said Bailey, who has an engineering degree from Harvard, but has studied under astronomers including Carl Sagan. “There are lots of pictures to look at and it should be lots of fun. I love to talk about astronomy… Cross our fingers and hope for good weather, but it will happen, rain or shine.”

For more information, call 248-627-1460.