Wednesday, September 01, 2010

the old man would have loved this

I just loaded the Star Walk app to my iPad and it is so cool. You hold it up to the night sky after allowing it to access your geographical location and it loads up the stars, planets, whatever you want to see. You can also see what astronomical events are on the horizon. I wish I had this last month when I was watching the Perseids late at night on the balcony.

But more importantly, I wish the old man was around to enjoy programs like this. He was an amateur astronomer who turned professional for while in the late sixties/early seventies, with his own business that made and sold telescope mirrors, Cavex Precision Optical.

photo of the moon, c. 1967

Photo of the moon, c. 1967, taken by Joseph Francis Periale, with a telescope he built himself—including mirrors he polished.

My dad built his own large telescope and outfitted it with a camera attachment. He used to set it up on clear nights and photograph the moon. Neither the business of Cavex nor the amateur astronomy fad lasted for my dad and he soon went back to his regular profession as a newspaper reporter. But he continued his stargazing and kept the telescopes he had built. One of my fondest memories was a Halloween night when we lived in Ocean Gate, New Jersey. My brother and I, elementary school kids (grade one and three respectively) were long home from our own trick or treating and happily handing out candy to the older kids. As it was getting dark we ran out of candy. What to do? Dad decided to dig out and set up the telescope and give looks at the moon in lieu of candy. He was probably trying to avoid a possible soapy window trick, but he also got a huge kick out of showing kids how to look through the eyepiece.

I wonder if any of those kids remember that Halloween, too. All I know is that my brother and I got to stay up later than usual and my dad passed on his lifelong love of astronomy in a fun and unique fashion. Sometimes it pays to be starstruck.
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