Door County is blessed with an abundance of ideal dark sky sites that make for stunning views of the universe over our heads. Beyond what we can see, however, there are many more awe-inspiring sights just beyond our vision that await those with the tools to see them.
Telescopes are the primary tool for gathering many times more light than our eyes, drawing the distant near, and coaxing the invisible to appear. And beginning in January, anyone with a Door County Library card can check out a quality telescope for observing the moon, stars, nebulae and planets, thanks to a cooperative program between the library and the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society (DPAS).
Four Orion “StarBlast” 4.5” telescopes were obtained by DPAS, made “library-friendly,” and have been donated to the library, thanks to generous support from DPAS, Door County Property Owners Association, and others. Three of these scopes will initially be available for checkout in Sturgeon Bay, and one will be stationed at the Sister Bay branch. Patrons over the age of 18 can check out a ‘scope, and anyone (with responsible supervision) can begin probing the night sky.
These telescopes are tabletop-mounted, portable and lightweight, enabling easy transport and set-up. Following the brief orientation received upon checkout and after reading the accompanying guidebook, the user will be ready to observe detail of the moon’s craters, the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter, as well discover star clusters, nebulae, double stars, and galaxies that lie beyond our own Milky Way.
Included with each scope is a zoom eyepiece to enable viewing great detail, or backing away for a more complete picture. A lighted finder/pointer scope eases aiming at desired objects. Also provided is an accessory pack with instruction book, moon map, pocket guide to northern constellations, and a wearable red flashlight (so as not to destroy night vision) to minimize fumbling around in the dark.
Each of these “Dobsonian” reflector telescopes will also come equipped with contact information for a DPAS “Mentor/Astronomer” who can answer patrons’ questions and advise beginning star gazers on celestial objects that may be viewable at the current time of year. This DPAS telescope custodian will also regularly provide maintenance checks and alignment services at the library between uses to keep the scope in good operating condition. Additionally, DPAS will highlight interesting viewing targets as part of their 2016 monthly general meetings.
Because we only get to see half of the sky at any particular time (due to interference by all that daylight) as we circle the sun, the view is constantly changing and what we will see six months from now is the other side of the universe! There’s always something new to look at each month and the DPAS observers will share their best ideas for celestial objects to track down and enjoy.
The library has scheduled kick-off seminars for interested patrons (Jan. 9 at 2 pm in Sturgeon Bay and Jan. 18 at 6 pm in Sister Bay) that cover the handling, operation and safe use of the telescopes so as to maximize the enjoyment of these durable and precision instruments. DPAS members will be on hand to provide instruction and answer questions.
Please contact the library in Sturgeon Bay at 920.743.6578 or in Sister Bay at 920.854.2721 for schedule confirmation and telescope availability. The library also offers content at DoorCountyLibrary.org where their online catalog can be searched under “telescope” and where a hold/reserve can be placed for the next available checkout.
Ongoing support and viewing ideas are also available through DPAS at our monthly meetings held the first Tuesday of each month (February through December) at 7 pm at the Crossroads’ Astronomy Center, 2200 Utah St., Sturgeon Bay. We welcome anyone interested in astronomy or the night sky.
“Eye On the Night Sky” is a monthly column by the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society. For more information on the organization, visit DoorAstronomy.org.