Tuesday, June 17 2014 @ 01:00 AM CDT
Contributed by: bobmoody
When I first wrote this article in July, 2003, I had so much love for and a desire to be more like John Dobson. Many amateur astronomers feel this way, I'm sure. If you ever had the opportunity to hear John speak as I did at a Texas Star Party, you immediately felt a comfortable rapport with the monk turned "carney barker" to the stars. His demeanor was gentle and loving and unmistakeably persuasive. All this man ever wanted was to help his fellow humans understand in just a small way how we are all directly connected to the universe we live in.
Planet Earth lost its biggest fan of amateur astronomy on January 15, 2014 at age 98. I venture to say not a single amateur astronomer on this "little speck of dust" as he called it, does not know who John was and what his amazing contributions to this hobby are. The most popular amateur telescope design taken from WWII gun mounts, with ship's portholes ground to fine perfection as reflective mirrors, and that smooth guiding hand as we started our love of the universe in the most personal of ways, eventually finding our own ways of offering telescopic bliss to all those we invite to step up to our eyepieces. We could never do better than to be just a little more like John Dobson.
Dobson would occasionally take his hand-made telescopes into San Francisco where he would set up to give people views of the moon and planets. This is how he came to call himself a "sidewalk astronomer".
But John might be better known throughout history as one who's passion was to take astronomy to the masses. His days as a sidewalk astronomer together with his treks each summer to state parks all over the western states were meant to do one thing, offer the public a chance to see the universe through a telescope. Once featured on the PBS series "The Astronomers", Dobson said, "Now IF there were a million amateur astronomers with telescopes, and they were willing to let a few thousand people each look through their telescopes, there would be a chance for all of the people in this world who wanted to see, to see." That says it all. John Dobson would like nothing more than for all 6+ billion of us to see the universe and experience its wonder and beauty.
Whether our telescopes are large or small, all who look to the skies and wonder are astronomers. We marvel at the things we see, and each in our own way struggle to understand as best we can. Like John, many of us are driven to impart just a tiny fraction of what we have learned to anyone who asks. If enough of us try, someday the rest of the world may know our little secret. That the universe can be understood, and an exquisite joy to experience first hand.
In the words of Albert Einstein, "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe, is that it is comprehensible."