Remember John Dobson

John Dobson and me at the NCRAL in Green Bay.
John Dobson and me at the NCRAL in Green Bay.

I just read the sad news that a wonderful man, John Dobson, has passed away. John Dobson was the founder of the Sidewalk Astronomers and the creator of the Dobsonian mounted telescopes. He loved astronomy, but his greatest love was sharing the night sky with anyone who would look through his telescope.

In 1956, after he built his first telescope he was so fascinated by what he saw that he thought “Everybody’s got to see this”.  This must have started his lifelong quest to bring astronomy into backyards everywhere!

I had the honor of meeting him at the NCRAL meeting sponsored by my astronomy club. I was very new to the club and to astronomy in general. I didn’t know who our distinguished guest speaker was! I knew that everyone was very excited to have him here so I was curious as to who he was and what his talk would be about.

I had the opportunity to talk with him for a few minutes prior to our meal. I got the sense that he wasn’t all that comfortable being the center of attention. He didn’t see himself as someone special. He was just a man who truly loved astronomy!

His talk was about the Double Slit Experiment, which I don’t understand anymore now than I did then. I was fascinated by him and all that he had accomplished.

Handout from the NCRAL

The world of astronomy is definitely a better place because of him. His passion was contagious!

March 8th is the International Sidewalk Astronomy Night. Please help to honor the life of John Dobson by making plans with your local astronomy club, or with your own group of star gazers to share the amazing night sky with others. Bring your binoculars, your telescopes or just your knowledge of constellations.

Thank you John Dobson for your kind heart and your passion for astronomy. You will be missed.


Hand of God – Another Amazing Photo!


This is why I love astronomy! We can look into the far reaches of the galaxy and beyond. One of the first times I looked through the 30 inch telescope at the observatory I gasped at the beauty of the star cluster in the eyepiece. Then when I found out how far away that star cluster was, well I was stunned.

At the top of the observation tower at the state park, I can see for miles. But through the telescope I can see for light years, and that’s just with a backyard telescope!  Now add the power of something like the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and, well see for yourself.

This photo has been making quite a stir on the internet. I hate to admit this, but I wasn’t aware of it until a co-worker of mine brought it to my attention. They’re calling this the Hand of God. It’s both beautiful and a bit haunting. It reminds me that we’re really quite small in this universe we live in.

This pulsar wind nebula had previously been detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in lower-energy X-ray light, which is the green and red. Recently NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array or NuSTAR imaged the object in high-energy x-rays for the first time. The results of that are shown in blue. The bright white spot in the center is a pulsar that’s spinning at a phenomenal rate of 7 times per second!

Seeing images like this keeps me looking up. It makes those late nights searching for an elusive fuzz ball worthwhile. For more amazing pictures that will both inspire and amaze you, you might want to check out the Hubble Site, or the Astronomy Picture of the Day.

If you have a favorite astronomy picture we’d love to see it! Let us know why it inspires you!




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