I became seriously focused on astronomy about 35 years ago, although my interest went back much farther. Most of my time was spent reading, library books, magazines and then later, after getting involved with the Astronomy Book Club. I purchased many hard cover astronomy books. I also subscribed to Sky and Telescope, Astronomy, and in recent years the Canadian magazine Sky News. As I got more involved with learning about this hobby there was never a shortage of things to read. Of course, then the internet came along and the amount of information that is presently available can be mind boggling.
I spent a fair amount of time roaming the sky with binoculars, but it seemed that I was most content reading and learning about the universe in all of its diversity. Although I spent a fair amount of money on astronomy books I couldn’t seem to break down and invest in a telescope. As a result my observing career had to wait till the children had grown and were moving on with their own lives.
After having spent considerable time learning the constellations and studying about the many objects within them, I felt it was time for me to do some serious looking. It wasn’t long before a 12” LX200 Meade showed up at the door. It was an awful size and when I got the packaging off, it was so much larger than I had imagined. From that time forward I knew that this would be a turning point in the way I imagined the sky and the things in it.
The size of this scope became painfully obvious as Audrey and I mucked it back and forth from the house to the veranda on nights when the viewing was good and nights when I thought it would be good but wasn’t. There was no doubt this thing had to have a permanent pier and a roof over its head.
I must admit that the idea of the observatory with the dome had come long before the telescope arrived. However, it was as if I had maneuvered myself into a position where I had no other choice but to build it and the only way to get myself off my rear and get started was to buy the scope first. Well, that worked just fine and before I knew it I was digging a hole in the garden right where Audrey had just planted some trees. The trees had to suffer the shock of another move. This was a fairly large hole and in it I built a wooden box 5ft x 5ft x 5ft. It was poured full of cement after I placed a 9inch steel pipe in the middle. It extended 20 ft above the ground. To make a long story short, the observatory was built around it. I constructed the dome in a shed not far from the observatory. Upon its completion, it was transported and hoisted by a boom truck to the top of the observatory. So finally my favorite tool had its own shed and I had realized a very long time dream. I guess I could go on and on about why it is built the way that it is and about the little problems we had to work around during the construction but I’d rather write about what I want to do with it.
This brings me to my plans for the future. These plans are shared by a friend of mine, another amateur astronomer in the name of Simon Dawson. Between the two of us we want to change the way people look at the sky, whether they be interested adults, children or teenagers.
If you come visit us and you find that your interest is more than you expected and you wish to learn more about that celestial sphere above your head, then we will share with you our knowledge and show you how to move amongst the constellations and locate their hidden secrets of beauty. The sky that may now seem to be an endless maze of stars will take on a host of very recognizable patterns and you will learn to navigate these ancient constellations and cherish their beauty whenever you see them overhead.
We are hoping to bring together at least a small group of individuals, who like us, find great enjoyment in learning about the heavens and sharing with astronomers and scientists the joy and excitement of their discoveries as they now seem to be happening in leaps and bounds. With a sufficient number of interested people we would like to put together a formal astronomy club. Once in place, scheduled events of observing or simply talking and learning can be a regular part of our meetings together. All is required is a desire to learn, and here at the Twillingate Astronomical Observatory we have a fairly large astronomy library with lots of star charts and current magazines showing us all that‘s new in the sky on a day to day basis. Drop us an email, we would love to hear from you.