By Norm C. Nassie, MD:
I was twelve when I first peered through a friend’s homemade 8” telescope.
I was “hooked” by the first glance at the Moon looking back at me. By the age of fourteen, I constructed my own telescope. It was not very sophisticated by today’s standards, but it was mine and I couldn’t have been prouder.
Tired of my complaining, my wife came up with a unique idea. I had planned on purchasing land in the Mt. Shasta area of California to build my new observatory. She expressed concern with this proposal due to my busy work schedule and difficulty finding the time to commute to the new observatory. I challenged her to come up with a better idea, and she did just that. She had seen in a magazine, an advertisement for a GMC XUV Envoy with a retractable roof. She suggested that I could purchase this type of a vehicle and place a telescope within the cargo bay. With this unique vehicle I could use my scope at any location that I desired. It was at that moment the idea of our mobile observatory was born.
For the next six months, I worked in my garage coming up with a lift that would be able to elevate my telescope out of my new Envoy. I purchased a 14-inch Meade Telescope and had a computer designed specifically for my mobile observatory. A year later, my wife and I traveled to Big Bear Lake, California, for the 2006 RMTC Astronomy Expo. We were so pleased with the excitement and praises of the attendees.
With the Mobile Observatory Star Chaserz traveled the west giving public star shows and events. We went to public events, private events, schools, scouting events, colleges, and the national parks, etc. THEN CAME COVID! This chanced everything. Things came to a halt. Desperate to continue our “mission” we had to come up with a different venue. My wife and I decided to build another observatory and develop a virtual website where we could broadcast an interactive presentation, such as “The Summer Sky”. In this way everyone, especially the audience would be safe.
In this setting, we will have our narrator, Mike Ryan, a past presenter at the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco, use a virtual planetarium app at his home in the Bay Area, to point out and describe celestial objects of interest. To display live video images, Brent Simons, a retired satellite engineer, will direct the appropriate telescopes to acquire the objects. Audience members will be able to pose questions and request live images to review later.