President’s Message

Happy May everyone. We have several items on our to-do list. As you’ll read in the news section, the quote from SK Exteriors was voted down at the April meeting. True, the amount of
money was pretty substantial but the job would be done. Several indicated we could either do
some of the work ourselves or at least get it done for less money. That’s all well and good and
I’m all for it . . .but we can’t sit on our hands. It’s easy to vote down a proposal then let others
do the work. Nothing gets done that way and our building will deteriorate. If you know of a
contractor, call them. We can meet them at the site. It’s a frustrating time trying to get someone to call you back. I called Dillman Brothers several times after I submitted a request for a
quote and have still heard nothing back. Lets not let this go!
Second, I got a phone call from Dan King at Camp Ondessonk in southern Illinois, located near
the town of Ozark. For the newer members, CUAS arranged to visit the camp for the 2017 total
solar eclipse and they took good care of us. We camped out in their horse pasture and they fed
us well. We did several workshops for them and Carl Wenning of the TCAA did a keynote talk in
the dining hall. Dan was wondering if we wanted to come back for April of 2024? Given the
eclipse track next year, we would not need to travel as far south. Jim Wehmer and I presented
on this several years ago as he and I visited with the mayor of Olney, Illinois. We could go there
and back in a day (no overnights) and they have a large sports complex we could use. At an
upcoming club meeting, I’ll repeat the presentation and we can take a vote on where we want
to go. To be clear, any club member can do what they want! You can observe the eclipse from
anywhere you wish. But it was fun to go with a group of people you know and experience the
spectacle with friends. It’s also nice to know you’re setting up equipment in a spot where you
know you’re welcome! We’ll discuss this soon, probably at our July meeting.
Lastly, if you’ll bear with me a minute here . . . . we all have our stories of how we got into skywatching. Mine started in 5th grade when my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Dale Williams, poked holes
through some construction paper and laid it on a transparency machine (remember those?) and
I saw my first constellation on the classroom wall. I was hooked. I soon met a kid in class that I
found out lived in my neighborhood. His name was Chris Wood. We immediately struck up a
friendship. We did sleepovers at each other’s house and played baseball on the same team at a
nearby park. I first heard a Led Zeppelin song on his 8-track tape player! I had a 60mm refractor from K-Mart (that only went to 60x by the
way) and he also got a similar Jason telescope,
so we spent many nights in our backyards observing the sky. (See the image at left—yeah,
that’s me on the left. I had upgraded to the
Edmund 4 1/4” reflector). We made our own
sky maps, too, using binoculars, pencil and
paper. We thought we were a lot smarter
than we were. On one occasion, during a
sleepover, we awoke to go outside to see the
planet Mars. I wrote in my notes (which I still
have!) how “both moons, Photos and Deimos,
were visible.” Now before you go “OK, wait a
minute!” we later were embarrassed to find
out, we were looking at Jupiter and not Mars.
The interesting thing was the timing – we
thought we were looking at Mars and, when
we looked, only two of Jupiter’s four satellites were visible!
Another time, when Chris and I were both 14, we found a list of periodic comets and their expected return. Keep in mind there was still a buzz over Comet Kohoutek from 1973! One of the
comets, Comet Westphal, was due back in 1975. Well, we took the orbital inclination and some
other numbers (we had no clue what they meant!) and used some star charts and predicted the
comet might be visible near the Big Dipper. In retrospect, it was a wild guess. Nothing
more. So we looked. Get this – we found it! A fuzzy cotton
ball near the Big Dipper close to where we thought it would be!!! And we watched it for many nights and tracked its
motion! Now, were we brilliant? Nope, not at all, we were
lucky. I didn’t take Sky & Telescope at the time but I would
look at it at the public library. To my shock, I discovered
we had not found Comet Westphal, but we observed Comet Kobayashi-Berger-Milon, discovered in July of 1975. So
we didn’t “discover” the comet but we found it before we
knew it existed! Those were really exciting times, well before the internet, when one had to actually go outside and
see something. I miss those times.
As I write this, I just found out Chris died on April 13. We
went our separate ways out of high school and met up now
and then. He lived in Georgetown and once, when my son
was playing baseball at Danville Stadium, we met, watched
some baseball and got caught up. He drove a truck between Danville and Rockford overnight, so it was tough to
communicate with him. It’s tough to lose childhood
friends, especially ones where you had such good experiences. It’s cliché really, but, lets face it, life IS short. Thank
you, Chris, for being a part of my astronomical journey.
You’ll be missed. Thanks for reading this far. I hope to see
you at the May meeting.

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