Observatory Welcomes 1,000 Guests


Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut
Martz/Kohl Board of Directors

The stars come out at night. Everybody knows that. But there is one famous exception to that rule, the closest star to us only comes out in the daytime… it is, of course, called The Sun.

But on Monday afternoon, August 21, this year, the sun almost disappeared from sight behind the Moon. This year’s solar eclipse turned out to be a crowd pleaser for more than 1,000 guests who took advantage of the Martz-Kohl Observatory grounds, facilities, refreshments, and specially designed solar eclipse glasses provided by NASA, to view this rare and always awe inspiring astronomical event.

Frewsburg, New York, was positioned under the moon’s passing shadow so that 75 percent of the sun was covered as the Moon’s orbit took it across the sun’s disk. The day’s eclipse-watching event was assisted by the clearing of early clouds followed by clear skies, warm temperatures and very little haze.

Two specially filtered solar observing telescopes were also open for guests to view the sun and observe sunspots and solar flares that occurred during the eclipse. The Kohl telescope was outfitted with a special solar camera for guests who preferred an indoor viewing experience to watch the progress of the eclipse on a wide-screen monitor in the lecture hall.

In addition to the long anticipated sky show, guests took advantage of the Observatory’s guided tours of the newly expanded facilities, its three main telescopes and viewing facilities for members and guests using many of Martz-Kohl’s smaller but powerful scopes from the unique indoor, roll-off-roof observing platform.

Mission Accomplished
The Martz-Kohl Observatory’s mission is to inform, educate and inspire the general public and to support teaching in the sciences of astronomy and physics. The avenues of approach to its mission are surprisingly diverse. The all-volunteer observatory staff has the experience and means to open the door of wonderment to whomever crosses its threshold. The complexity of the observatory’s offerings and the science that takes place at the observatory come as a total surprise to new visitors and a delight to many returning guests and members.

On public viewing nights (see our website – www.martzobservatory.org), if the skies are clear, guests are offered opportunities to visit the Solar System and deep space beyond our neighborhood in the universe for themselves by viewing the skies through the eyepiece of the Kohl Telescope and to view any selection of the more than 10,000 astro-photographs taken by observatory staff over recent years.

The Moving Sun
On September 22 the sun’s position in the sky will signal the next changing of the seasons, the September Equinox. The September equinox will arrive in the late afternoon in the Eastern United States. At that time the Sun will be directly over the equator, creating nearly equal amounts of daylight and night (equi-equal + nox-night) everywhere in the world. This signals the first day of fall (making this the autumnal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and, south of the equator, the first day of spring (called the vernal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.

Guests are welcome and new members join just about every month. Students, teachers, parents and stargazers of every interest level are invited to consider joining the observatory. Membership privileges include opportunities to learn how to operate the observatory’s telescopes, carry out their own observing programs or even their own search for new comets, planets and asteroids.

For a deeper look at the night sky, planets, stars and the entire universe, visit the Martz/Kohl Observatory online at martzobservatory.org, check the schedule of events and visit in person. Thank you to Hall and Laury Opticians for sponsoring these Martz/Kohl column.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.