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Beacon Archive

October 2002
PDF Version

Astronomy Class on the Beach.

When the Manitou pulled into Paradise Bay in early September, it had an extra treat for Beaver Islanders interested in the stars: its own itinerant astronomy professor, Mark Nussbaum of Hillsdale College. Mark didn't offer to put on a seminar until he was told it would be the only way for him and his wife to board the fully-booked cruise. He's normally a chemistry professor, but taught astronomy in the past and was able to borrow a high-tech computerized mid-range telescope for this occasion, a 5" Celestron NexStar. This scope has a built-in Sky Tour feature, which commands the NexStar to find the most interesting objects in the sky and automatically slews over to each one. Once he had the machine aligned to two fixed stars, Mark could dial in the setting for over 18,000 objects, including the best deep-sky objects, bright double stars and variable stars. With the Manitou gently tugging on her anchor, he was able to take her crew and the few curious Islanders who wandered up on a tour of many of the wonders of the Universe. "This is an ideal place to set up," he remarked. "Compared to so many light-polluted places, Beaver Island is dark enough to receive tangible expressions from very distant sources. I'm surprised one of Michigan's many universities doesn't build a world-class observatory here.”

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