Library offers telescopes to borrow.

October 1, 2014
Chris Bacon

Chris Bacon

By Chris Bacon, Mason County District Library.

When I look up at the night sky I think of only one thing, “Space, the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the Starship Millennium Falcon.”  As you probably can guess I was and still am a huge fan of Star Wars and Star Trek.  Now I know I’m not a diehard Trekker or Warsser, but I do know enough to tell the difference between a Wookie mind meld and a Vulcan mind trick.  And I still get goose bumps when Vader tells Captain James P. Curt that he’s his father, which I always thought was weird because Curt looked a lot younger than Vader so how could he be Vader’s father?

Anyhoo.  As I was saying, when I look up at the night sky I yearn to get a closer look at Tatooine and its two suns and three moons, but I know that’s not possible without a warp drive and clearance from the Klingons to pass through their airspace.  So, I’ve found the next best thing to explore outer space from the relative safety of Earth…..telescopes.  Now I don’t personally own a telescope because I’m saving up to buy a ride on Virgin Galactic, so instead I’m taking advantage of an awesome resource provided by the Mason County District Library.  The library has telescopes you can checkout and use for free.  The only requirement is you must have a library account.  If you don’t have one please call 231-843-8465 to find out how to get one.  Once you have an account you can check out a scope for three days.  Plenty of time to see the Death Star motoring around the heavens.  And the scopes are perfect for beginners like me.  Both are easy to use and yet powerful enough to view far, far away objects (we’re talking light years here, Bud) including Han Solo’s home planet Vulcan.

The first telescope, an Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope, is a great compact, easy aiming beginners’ telescope.  It’s small and lightweight weighing in at thirteen pounds (about as much as a fat Ewok), but powerful enough to provide detailed views of the Moon, Jupiter, and large celestial objects like nebulae and Jabba’s stomach.  The second telescope, a Bushnell Voyage eight inch Dobsonian Telescope with a wide-field finder scope, is a bit larger, standing nearly five feet tall (a tad bit taller than Luke), but more powerful with a few more features including a 6×30 finder scope allowing for an easier time locating and focusing on objects.  Both are point and view scopes so there’s nothing too high tech to operate.  Don’t worry. It’s not like trying to build your own light saber or anything.  And instructions and manuals are included with the scopes if you have difficulties or questions.

After you borrow one of the scopes the next task is fairly simple, “What do you want to look at?”  Should you first try to see the remains of Alderaan floating in space?  Or perhaps watching Romulus get sucked into a black hole?  Now as incredible as it may be, I realize some of you might not be Star Wars or Star Trek fans, but no worries.  There are still plenty of amazing things to look at closer to Earth.  A great place to start is the Moon.  It’s big enough and close enough so it’s pretty easy to find and observe through the scope (it’s the big round thing glowing in the night sky).  You’ll be able to see craters and mountain ranges galore.  And if you are really lucky maybe some cheese too.  After the Moon you might want to check out Jupiter or Saturn and their rings and moons.  Or maybe the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy to see some fine-looking images of stars light years away.  Now don’t panic if you don’t have a clue where to find these nighttime objects.  There are plenty of resources available on the Internet to help you find these and other jaw dropping space bodies.  Plus the library has numerous astronomy books available for checkout that will guide you on your quest to see if there really is a cow jumping over the moon.

So if you dream about visiting Dagobah and chatting up the ghost of Yoda or stopping by Hoth to see if tonton’s really do smell that bad on the outside, the Mason County District Library can’t help you with that.  But, if you want to see some amazing out of this world holy “maw ‘tok” (Klingon for wowser) stuff check out a scope and begin your  mind boggling sightseeing journey to a galaxy far, far away. And “chaq raD.”


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