Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Dr. Richard Stevens Obituary: Renowned Epidemiologist, Who Discovered the Correlation of Increased Incidences of Breast Cancer From the Hazards of Light Pollution: Prelude by Guest Host, Dr. Mario Motta

September 8, 2019

      Most of you may not have known Richard Stevens, but if you have any interest in light pollution issues, you should know his name, and I am reporting the sad news that he has just passed away.    Mario Motta 

    Dr Stevens (PhD, Univ of Connecticut), was an epidemiologist…looking for patterns of incidence and causes of diseases.

     Back before the term light pollution was a “thing” in  the 1980’s, Richard noticed an unusual pattern of higher than normal Breast Cancer incidence that seemed to cluster in areas with high outdoor lighting. He collected data worldwide, and noticed when women changed location to higher lighted areas suddenly their risk went up with all other factors the same.

       In 1987, Richard was the first to put forward a hypothesis that high light levels at night can harm human health, and postulated that the mechanism may very well be melatonin suppression.  He then went on to collect data and show a very plausible connection, the very first indication that excessive night lighting can adversely affect human health. This was revolutionary and spawned  a whole new field.

     This observation led to many new researchers studying and testing this hypothesis leading to many studies (thousands now) published that in fact have proven this to be correct. This culminated in 2017 when 3 medical researchers received the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the biochemical pathway that leads to human health harm from this melatonin suppression. Again, he initiated this entire field of study.

     Like most of you, I got interested in light pollution issues primarily to protect the night sky, and was an activist on that level. However, in the early 90’s, I saw some of Richards articles and as a medical doctor, became intrigued that what I considered an irritant was actually a significant medical issue that needed to be studied and discussed when we talk about light pollution.

     When I was elected to the AMA council of science, and wanted to get AMA policy adopted for health reasons, I reached out to him, and we fast became friends.  The first major white paper in 2012 on “human health effects of night lighting” was in fact largely written by Richard.

     I was able to get four additional researchers to contribute, and basically I became an editor of their fine work, but Richard was the leader without question.  It was so well done with basic science and references that this led directly to the house of delegates of the AMA adopting this whitepaper overwhelmingly, and this remains AMA policy to this day, helping many in the battle on light pollution.

     In 2016 he was also the lead player in the AMA paper I put forth on the dangers of excessively blue LED lighting.  Again the science was so well done, the AMA adopted it as policy for municipalities to avoid 4000K lighting, stopping the lighting industry from putting up 4000K lighting on all our streets. (we are still battling this of course, but… without that input and paper the battle would have been lost I believe).

    Dr. Stevens showed, along with other researchers, that excessive outdoor blue-light at night is a human health hazard, and an environmental disaster.   This would not have happened without Richard Stevens insight and genius at connecting the dots on this issue. We all owe him a huge amount of gratitude.  I can say that without his influence I might never have been drawn to and aware of the  medical effects of light pollution to even write the articles. For any success I have had in helping promote this issue, it really comes from his influence on me, and his original insights that started a whole new field of medical light pollution harm and environmental damage.

     I had the honor of having him at my home a few times, and I got to know him well enough to call him a close friend.  He will be missed.

      I write this prelude to his obituary….so that proper credit goes to the individual who may have saved the world from oblivious over-lighting and the harm that would ensue.   I felt all in the amateur astronomy community should know.

Dr. Mario Motta

Obituary as following:

SkyShed POD Personal Observatory: By Guest Host, James Dire

August 19, 2019

Hi All,

Had a productive day at the observatory yesterday. Got the Sky Shed POD anchored to the concrete and installed all of the equipment. After dark, did the polar alignment and a mount model.  All is ready to start imaging!

The anchor bolt in the photo goes 3 inches into the concrete.  The telescope is an 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien. I’m using an 0.8x Focal Reducer/Field Flattner with the CCD camera which yields an f/6.4 system with a 1300mm focal length.

The camera is an SBIG ST-2000XCM. Controlling everything with The SkyX Pro and imaging with MaximDL.

I’ll probably swap cameras occasional with an SBOIG STF-8300c and swap telescopes with my 5.2-inch f/7 refractor.




Neglected Deep-Sky Objects: By Guest Host James Mullaney

August 16, 2019

The following link is to one of my older S&T articles, FYI.  It’s the original Word Document as submitted to the magazine.  Enjoy!  Jim Mullaney 

S&T Neglected Deep-Sky Wonders

Starlink: (Satellite Constellations) Digital Imaging vs Sketching By Guest Host, James Mullaney

August 11, 2019

With the overwhelming popularity of astro-imaging among the amateur astronomy community today, those practicing it may soon be in for quite a shock.  With 12,000 Starlink (plus others) satellites in the works, images will surely be spoiled no matter how short the exposure.  

And in the case of wide-field long exposures, there could be dozens of satellite trails of varying magnitudes crossing the image.  

Ironically, visual observing – and good old-fashioned sketching as long promoted by ATMoB member Roger Ivester in his articles, letters, and his “Observer’s Challenge” posts – will be immune to this growing menace.  (Among other notable club members who actively sketch deep-sky objects are Sky & Telescope’s Sue French and Astronomy magazine’s Glenn Chaple.)

Jim Mullaney


Supplemental:  The above article by James Mullaney is something for thought, contemplation and concern for sure.  However,  I’d like to add or give credit to some other visual observer’s who contribute sketches to the Observer’s Challenge report on a regular basis.     

Jaakko Saloranta, Fred Rayworth, Craig Sandler, Mike McCabe, Kenneth Drake, Francisco Silva and also expert astro-photographer, James Dire has been enjoying a bit of sketching as of late.   Roger 


Stellafane 2019 by Guest Host: Mario Motta

August 5, 2019

Entering Stellafane:  I always feel like I am going home. 

I have been attending Stellafane since 1967. This was my 46th (I missed 5 years due to medical school and internship, and 1999 when I went to an eclipse in Hungary), so…I have been attending for a 52 year span. 

My Children have been gong with me since birth, and still attend nearly every year, and this year my 4 year old granddaughter joined as well!, In fact also had a niece and her three kids, and “extended family event”.

There are many star parties these days across the country, all done very nicely….but there is one and only one Stellafane, whose focus remains telescope making, and which has a rich history. 

Stellafane was founded in 1926 by Russell Porter with the Springfield Telescope Makers and with help from the Boston ATMoB. 

Its purpose was to teach how to make telescopes for the common man.  And prior to that, if an American wanted a telescope, it had to be shipped from Europe at a huge expense. By teaching all how to make them, costs became less of a issue. 

Scientific American took notice and published a string of articles about this back then, launching American Amateur Astronomy (and to some extent professional astronomy!) With this success, Russell Porter was noticed, and hired to work on the famed 200-inch Mount Palomar Telescope in California. 

Stellafane is a registered historical landmark.

I learned how to make telescopes from this group, and was encouraged to excel at every turn, build them bigger and better. We still give out awards for homemade telescopes to this day.  (I am in fact one of the mechanical judges, as well as the camp physician, which is my way of giving back)

I plan on attending for the rest of my life, and will never willingly miss a year.  This year, there was over a thousand attendees, and 35 telescope entries for judging.


1. Stellafane: Entry

2. Next generation being enticed, my Josephine (note her t-shirt says: “Forget princess, I want to be a rocket scientist”

3. Pink Clubhouse, historical registered landmark “The heavens declare the glory of God” on the roof trim.

4. Inside the Pink, oozes with history:  Images from Mt Palomar construction, images from Mt Wilson, and much more…)

5. The porter Turret telescope, was built by Russell Porter for cold Vermont winters.  The mirror sits on the boom and the focus is Inside the building

6. Bert Willard inside the porter scope (In 1979 I bought my first large mirror blank at Stellafane from him, a 16-inch blank, spent 4 years as a resident grinding and building a portable 16-inch scope. I had built an 8-inch as a teenager, but this one cemented my love of astronomy

7. Flanders Paviliion:  Talks are held here. 

8. McGreggor Observatory with roll-off roof. 

9. Shupman Telescope: This is the largest Shupman in the world…a 13-inch marvel.  Nothing on this planet, I have ever viewed through equals this scope. It was designed and built by Scott Milligan, the same lens designer who designed my 32-inch telescope. You need to see Jupiter Mars and Saturn through this one. Voyager like viewing!

10 Simoni Observatory: Newest at Stellafane, a solar heliostat, you sit in the building and observe in H-alpha.

11. Many scopes observing field.

12. McGreggor, the field, and the relatively new dome for handicapped individuals. 


next generation- (josephine and me)


inside the Pink

the porter


bert willard in the porter

Flanders Pavillion



simoni observatory

observing field

scopes and mcgregor.jpg

Mario Motta 

Stellafane 2019 by Guest Host: Glenn Chaple

August 5, 2019

I had a nice time at Stellafane this year. Made it a brief day trip, as I brought my brother Bob with me and he’s not into astronomy like me. His wife died a month ago and I thought a Stellafane visit would get his mind off things for awhile.

We arrived at Breezy Hill around 11am and immediately went to the swap table. It was pretty well cleared out by this time and I wasn’t really in the mood for astro-goodies anyway. Amazingly, I found a guy who, besides astro gear, was selling brand-new fishing rods for just $10 each. Bob had broken his rod when we went fishing last weekend, so I bought him one as an early birthday present. That alone made the trip worthwhile!

Most of the day, I showed him around the Stellafane grounds and introduced him to friends I meet each time I go there. Among them was Sue French and her husband Al. I congratulated her on her success in taking over the “Deep Sky Wonders” column in Sky and Telescope.

The weather was surprisingly nice, despite predictions of afternoon showers. As darkness approached, I set up my 4.5-inch Orion Dob in the observing field next to ATMoB member Steve Clougherty’s 18-inch scope.

Roger Ivester:  You’ll be proud of me.  I took your advice about observing future Observer’s Challenge objects and viewed the July, 2021, target NGC 6572 – a PN in Ophiuchus. I checked it out first in Steve’s scope, then with the 4.5-inch, making a sketch using that scope. There was enough haze to add some murk to the normally clear and dark Stellafane skies, so Steve and I showed Bob a few showpieces – Jupiter and Saturn, some bright doubles (beta Sco, Mizar, and Albireo through my scope), and M3 through the 18-inch before Bob and I left Breezy Hill at 10:30pm.

Bob didn’t become an addicted backyard astronomer after his Stellafane trip, but he did enjoy himself. As he told my friends there, he came because he wanted to see what this place I constantly talk about is like,​ and he was impressed by the scenery and the camaraderie.

James Mullaney:  To answer your questions:

Camping areas are scattered all around Stellafane East. Stellafane West is the heart of the convention and is comprised of the pink clubhouse and Porter Turrett Telescope and is the site of the telescope-making competition. Stellafane East was added after the 1980s when the farmer who let us use a field near the clubhouse as a camping area died, and his sons wanted to use the area to build condos. They were thwarted when the Springfield Telescope Makers had the Stellafane site designated as a national historical site. In spite, the farmer’s family turned the field into a Christmas tree farm, but the Springfield Club was able to purchase nearby acres, and -voila!- Stellafane East. There isn’t a banquet pre se. A local vendor sets up a large tent and seating area, and lobster and chicken dinners are served (ordered in advance when registering for Stellafane). Hot dogs, hamburgers, and Italian sausage grinders are also offered. In its heyday, about 2000 people would attend the Stellafane Convention. I didn’t ask for a count, but those of us there estimated perhaps as much as a thousand.

I’ve attached two pictures which I took at Stellafane. The first is the view you get when you leave the wooded trail leading up to the clubhouse and reach the clearing at the top of Breezy hill.

Each year I come to Stellafane, I take a shot of this view, then take individual shots of the telescopes entered in the competition (didn’t “shoot” the scopes this year).

In the pic is the pink clubhouse and the Porter Turret Telescope. Back in 1996, I notified the Springfield Telescope Makers that September was the 50th anniversary of Walter Scott Houston’s first “Deep Sky Wonders” column in Sky and Telescope. Sadly, the magazine didn’t mention the fact. Scotty was a regular at Stellafane and, in appreciation, they invited me to join them on Breezy Hill on a clear September evening. What a difference from the clamoring crowds! It was just me and a few dozen club members. We used the Turret Telescope to view the objects Scotty had featured in that September, 1946, column. M11, M27, and M57. The real thrill came when we turned to the moon for a close-up view of Clavius Crater. A large crater invading its wall was named after Porter. Imagine looking at Porter Crater through a telescope designed (and possibly worked on) by the man it was named for!

The second photo shows me and Bob standing in front of the pink clubhouse. The guy in the red T-shirt and white cap to my right is Phil Harrington who has written several backyard astronomy guides and is the binocular columnist for Astronomy. I told him and the guys sitting next to him (friends who run the Astronomer’s Conjunction Convention in Northfield, MA) that they didn’t need to move. I’d just Photoshop them out of the picture!

A final observation. I walked the entire half mile up and down the wooded path to the clubhouse with no difficulty at all – a good sign that my heart has improved over its condition during the previous two  years.

Clear Skies,

Glenn Chaple

The Abandoned Observatory In Westford – By Guest Host: William Duane

April 30, 2019

Sputnik Observatory Figure 2

Sputnik Observatory Figure 1

By William Duane:

I left a message for the owner, Russell LeDuke who was nice enough to call me back with the details which he knew.

The observatory was originally built in 1957 or 1958 at Loral Corporation in Lexington, Massachusetts, where Russell worked.  The observatory was built as part of the program to monitor Sputnik!

Russell said that originally the dome was much closer to the ground, and the entrance door was only 4-foot tall or so.  He stated that the observatory was originally on a square pad, with a large concrete pier in the center.  I asked if the observatory was originally used as a optical or radar observatory to monitor Sputnik, but Russell didn’t know.

Over the years the observatory fell into disrepair, and was used for storage.  Around 20 years or more ago, Loral was looking to get rid of the observatory, and Russell was interested. He reached an agreement with Loral to acquire it.

After helping to clean up the site, Russell dismantled the observatory and dome into segments and transported them to his property in Westford.  He said that he dismantled the observatory and transported it over a weekend.  When he returned to Loral after the weekend, he was told that he had ruined the pool at work.  It took a while for him to realize that they were running a betting pool on how long it would take him to dismantle the observatory and remove it.  The pool was running at around a week, when he was able able to do it over the weekend.

Russell originally owned part of the land where the Avalon Acton now stands.  He re-assembled the observatory further up the hill from where it now stands, and had to move it when he sold that land to the Avalon project.

Russell stated that the wood at the bottom where the structure sat on the pad had started to rot, so he cut off the bad wood with a chain saw, and built a the new bottom portion raising it from the original 4-foot to the current 8-foot height.  After re-assembling the observatory he has used it as a garden shed.

Russell said that if someone is interested in the observatory or dome they should contact him.  He stated that the dome still rotates, and that he has the motor and possibly other parts.  He also said that he was fine with people stopping to look at it, and recommended parking at Avalon Acton just above the dome and hiking down the hill to take a look.  He was fine with me passing on his contact information:

Russell LeDuke  (978) 263-7518

Sputnik Observatory in Westford