AOAS Honors Dr. Larson

Sunday, February 01 2004 @ 11:27 am EST

Contributed by: bobmoody

AOAS Honors Dr. Chuck Larson With Honorary Lifetime Membership Award

Dr. Chuck Larson was honored by AOAS with only our second ever, Honorary Lifetime Member Award at our December 19, 2003 meeting at Creekmore Park. Dr. Larson serves AOAS as our Education Director, and has held this position for nearly 8 years since first joining our club. He now joins our first honoree, Jay Hilgartner, whom we honored with a Lifetime Membership Award in 1994.

We made Jay Hilgartner an Honorary Lifetime Member while he was still employed as Chief Meteorologist for local television station KFSM-TV5 in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Jay was instrumental in TV5's purchase and distribution of some 12,000 solar eclipse viewing glasses for the May 10, 1994 annular eclipse.
The path of annularity passed close to the Ft Smith area, and from there the moon eclipsed approximately 94% of the Sun's face. TV5 distributed more than 8,500 of the eclipse glasses free to area schools throughout their viewing area, and sold the remainder of the glasses to the general public at $1/pair. About two weeks after the eclipse, Jay presented AOAS with a check for nearly $2,900 which was the money they raised from the sale of eclipse glasses, and was the single largest donation to AOAS until now.

At the August 15, 2003 meeting of AOAS, Dr Larson and I announced to the members in attendance his intentions to donate to the club, his newly purchased Celestron CGE 1400 telescope. This 14" diameter f / 11 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is one of today’s state-of-the-art instruments. It's primary mirror sports Celestron's XLT enhanced coatings which gives the scope a "little extra" light grasp simply by reflecting some 11% more light than their standard UHTC coatings. It is also capable of utilizing a special "Fast-Star" secondary mirror attachment yielding a super-short f / 2 focal ratio. This capability allows for CCD imaging of deep-sky objects in the shortest amount of time possible.

The CGE 1400 also sports an advanced computer controlled German equatorial mount, the type preferred by most of the world's best astrophotographers. The hand-held control pad operates all the functions of the scope and contains a database of more than 40,000 objects. I can personally vouch for the ability of this scope to find objects on it's own with the "Go To" capability of the computerized mount making it a true joy to use. Simply input "NGC-6543" (The Cat's Eye Nebula), press the "Go To" button, and when the whirring motors finally stop, there's the Cat's Eye staring back at you.

We are currently searching for a proper dome to permanently house this research-grade instrument. Combined with telescope control software, we look forward to the day when we might sit comfortably inside our office and command and control this exceptional telescope remotely. Our long-term goal is to make this and possibly other telescopes here at Coleman Observatory accessible to area schools that also have the proper control software. Students will be able to view and image the wonders of the night sky from their own school's computer room. They'll be able to direct the CGE 1400 to locate nebulae and galaxies, then image these and thousands of other objects to carry out their own research, or just for fun.

This goal for the future is something that Dr. Larson wants to help us achieve. He recognizes that if things that interest our young students aren't properly incorporated into our school curricula, we are doing our children, and ultimately ourselves, a great injustice. In other programs around the nation where similar opportunities have been offered to schools, students interest in science has skyrocketed and their test scores reflect their renewed interest by making sometimes sharp, dramatic increases. Our area schools deserve the same opportunity, and with this instrument they'll have it.

This then, is the reason why Dr. Chuck Larson's generous offer is worthy of an Honorary Lifetime Membership Award and much, much more. His gift and his willingness to share it with AOAS and our area schools and students should never be forgotten.

Comments (0)