RVAS Telescope Loan Program

Bringing someone new into the hobby of Astronomy can be a daunting task. Expenses ranging from telescopes to eyepieces are just the start of frustrations that can be expounded upon by the complexity of telescope maintenance. Due to these factors, various astronomy clubs around the country have started a telescope loan program, where people can go to their local library and rent a telescope to test their hand at the hobby without having to endure the frustrations of expenses and difficulties of telescope maintenance.

Dan Chrisman, the President of RVAS, invited several club members to his home to help with our club’s telescope loan program. The goal of our meeting was to simplify the mechanics of an Orion StarBlast down to a point where the average person could use it with limited hassle and maintenance. To do this, we had to tear the scope down and rebuild it, removing some features and adding others, all with the goal of making the it more user friendly. Our hope is that these telescopes, soon to be in local libraries, will be a person’s first step into the hobby of amateur astronomy.

The following pictures are a brief overview of the tear down and rebuilding process.

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A Visit to the Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society

On Monday, April 18th I attended a meeting of the Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society in downtown Roanoke. It is often suggested in astronomy books and online forums that a great way to get more involved in the hobby is to attend and join a local astronomy club. After several years of delay, I decided to do just that.

Upon entering the meeting, I was greeted by Dan Chrisman, the RVAS President, along with several other members. To start off the meeting, they introduced me as a new visitor and began with people discussing any recent observations . The man sitting next to me talked about tracking the ISS over its past few flybys. I jumped in, mentioning how I was able to observe the ISS recently, as well, and had been doing some views of Jupiter. The meeting then shifted to a nice overview of upcoming sky events for May with Frank Baratta going through a Stellarium type program highlighting great targets for the month. The main discussion of the night was presented by Dan, who walked the group through an upcoming May 8th transit of the Sun and Mercury. To set up the main idea of what a transit is, Dan got the help of a few members to create an in-room model of the Sun, Mercury and Earth. The math of how these events are predictable is fascinating, and Dan did a nice job of making it practical to understand.

I had a nice time at my first meeting of the Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society. I plan on becoming a member at the next meeting, which will be a nice step forward in becoming more involved in the astronomical community. Regardless of where you live, there is probably a similar society set up with like-minded hobby enthusiasts. The best part about these groups is that they have members that match all levels of experience. Whether you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate or experienced amateur astronomer, there will be someone with your level of experience attending these meetings. So, even if you are new to the hobby and don’t have a set of binoculars or a telescope, stop by the next meeting of the RVAS or your local astronomy club to meet some nice people who are interested in expanding interest in the hobby.

For more information on the Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society,
please visit their website: www.rvasclub.org