Martz-Kohl Observatory: A Sky Show Worth Seeing


The sun never changes—or just about never. A few billion years ago it was much dimmer than it is today and a few billion years in the future it will be much brighter, but that’s a long time to wait if you want to see it change. Day-to-day and year-to-year the sun is pretty reliable.

But some other suns, a few peculiar stars scattered across the galaxy, pulse bright and dim like alien clockwork. They are called variable stars. If Earth lived near one of them, it would be cataclysmic. It would freeze into a snowball then burn to a cinder every other day, or week, or month—forever.

Some variable stars, for example, swell and shrink on fantastic scales while other erupt with enormous flares like sun-sized lighthouses scattered across the sky. As of 2021, nearly 50,000 of these bizarre stars have been found, many in our own stelar neighborhood.

Public Invited

On Wednesday evening, February 17, at 7:30, the Martz-Kohl Observatory will present another in its popular monthly series of special Zoom-conferences, this one on Variable Stars. The speaker, Donn Starkey, is an avid amateur astronomer who has made major scientific contributions in astronomy and astrophysics, authoring more than 70 research publications in astronomy. Donn believes astronomy is for everyone and enjoys bringing the stars down to earth to inspire and delight us all.

Donn Starkey’s presentations are geared for the general public who appreciate the beauty of the night sky and are interested in science.
To attend, simply go to and click on the program title starting at 7:15 to be on time for the 7:30 program. Meet the rest of the audience, and be prepared to be amazed and entertained. A lively Q&A time always follows each program.

MKO News

Though the observatory remains closed for tours and in-person programs until the Covid-19 pandemic regulations allow safe reopening, important work continues.

In the spring work will be finalized for remote operation of the telescopes by members and cooperating observatories and educational institutions across the country and around the world. As a result, even if some Covid restrictions remain in place, members can return remotely to enjoy and use much of what MKO has to offer.

Your Observatory Because of Your Support

MKO is an all-volunteer, non-profit association serving the public, the only one of its kind the Northeastern United States. It is supported by public contributions and the generosity of guests.

No admission fees are ever charged, but over the years a $5 dollar donation by adults and $2 for children have helped us keep the lights on and keep the telescopes operating. Anyone who would like to help MKO’s mission to educate and inspire the public can visit the website at and find the “Donate button.” Participation with any amount is greatly appreciated.

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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.