Program for the August 12, 2016, OAS meeting
By Eric Balcom
A recap of all the fun and excitement at this year's Nebraska Star Party.
I became interested in astronomy as a youth. A friend of mine was getting his Merit Badge in astronomy to advance to the next rank in the Boy Scouts. I tagged along as curiosity got the better of me. That night looking thru a 60 mm refractor we saw the Moon and the major planets. Well, that was enough for me and I purchased a 60 mm Tasco refractor. It was used in my parents’ back yard. It was good enough in the Cedar Rapids Metro Area to see the Moon, the major planets, and bright open star clusters. High school came along and I put the telescope away.
I think that life is sometimes cyclical as I was once again “bitten“ by the amateur astronomy bug years later when Dad was giving out part of our inheritance soon after Mom passed away. He said that he would gift his children every year with a certain amount. That got me thinking about what to do with the money. I decided that I was going to invest in a new telescope. I purchased an eight-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain scope from a hobby store in Michigan. That night the entire family enjoyed views of Saturn, Venus, and Jupiter. That was the summer of 1999.
I knew that the company I was working for was going to transfer me from Des Moines IA to Omaha NE shortly thereafter. I determined that when I got settled into town, that I would join the Omaha Astronomical Society.
After a year that I joined, I was elected Secretary of the OAS Club. After five years of taking meeting minutes, the position of Program Chair was open. During those years I lead a series of lectures on night time observing.
Currently, I write an article monthly for the OAS Stella. In it I like to share information about the planets, the orientation of the night sky, and observations made and shared when I’ve observed celestial objects through my or other fellow astronomers optical instruments.
During a meeting in late 2000, Clark & Deb Cheney were looking for volunteers for putting on the Nebraska Star Party. I had college experience of organizing a ski trip for college students during the Holiday Break so I said that doing Registration would not be a challenge. A couple of days after September 11, 2001, the Cheneys wanted me to take on being coordinator of the Star Party in 2002. And I’ve been volunteering in that position since that time.
I have been fortunate and thrilled about owning progressively larger telescopes. They have opened up for me the wonders of the Universe easily on display during the night time. Viewing the night sky around Omaha, at volunteer events, on friends farms in Iowa, and at the Star Party have given me a wealth of knowledge and a deep appreciation of the Universe that we live in.