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The Street Corner Astronomer

A couple weeks ago I had a very pleasant surprise while visiting my soccer bar in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  I was at Slaínte watching the United State’s first World Cup 2014 qualifier match and upon leaving I saw something I did not expect.  A blue Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on a fork mount was set up right on the brick steps of the south end of Broadway Square!  I immediately told my friend and his brother that I’d meet them back at his house to play some FIFA but I absolutely had to check out this display.  The telescope was an 8″ SCT and was owned by a man named Herman Heyn.  Herman is an elderly man who brings his scope out on weekends whenever the weather is clear.  He goes by the name of “Baltimore’s Street Corner Astronomer” and has been setting up his telescopes in Baltimore since 1987!  He is rather well-known among Fells Point regulars and residents by his blue SCT scope with the words “HAV-A-LOOK” printed on the side of the optical tube.  Herman delights in letting people peer into his scope and see sights such as Saturn, Jupiter, the moon, Venus, the Pleiades, and some of the Messier open clusters.  Most of the passerby are intrigued by the telescope having never had the experience before.  While talking with Herman, I watched about ten people look into the scope and they all had the typical wow-factor reaction.  The object of the night’s observation was Saturn and the awestruck visitors were simply delighted to have seen Saturn for the first time in their lives!  However, for every believer there is a doubter.  Several people passing by tried to convince me it was a fake and that we were just looking at a picture of Saturn taped over the aperture.  Those poor people.  They’ve yet to experience the joy of gazing at a beautiful ringed planet almost one billion miles away.

While talking to Herman about our shared interest in astronomy I found out that he’d been interested in the subject since the 8th grade when his science teacher taught an astronomy lesson.  I quickly developed a respect and admiration for Herman and his devotion to spreading the word about astronomy.  His desire to spread his passion to random people is admirable and I wish there were more people like him in our hobby!  After taking a quick peek at Saturn at about 130x I dropped the remaining couple dollars from my wallet into his donations hat and regrettably had to leave.  I spent about 20 minutes talking with Herman and I left very encouraged by the encounter!  I hope to go down to Fells Point again very soon and hopefully HAV-ANOTHER-LOOK!  Check out Herman’s website at hermanheyn.com!

An Astronomer’s Worst Nightmare

Clouds.

Period.

…And lights…but mostly clouds.

I used to not care about the large accumulations of water vapor that populate the Earth’s troposphere, but now that I’m an amateur astronomer I hate them with a fiery passion!  Nothing ruins a day filled with anticipation of wonderful stargazing with a dark sky like the appearance of clouds at sunset.  Or better yet, planning on taking my binoculars out at night when it’s clear out then waiting an hour only to find a completely overcast sky!  I find myself shaking my fist at the heavens and cursing the clouds for ruining what I had planned for that night.  Nothing reminds me more of the One who is in control of the heavens better than ruined plans.  I remember that the universe is God’s and that He controls every aspect of His creation including the cloud cover and that He allows me to gaze upon His beauty indirectly through His beauty revealed in the heavens.  The celestial beauty on a clear night testifies to the beauty of the God who created it.  If God covers the night sky with clouds then I’m not supposed to view the heavens that night for whatever reason.  I might think it’s stupid that it’s cloudy but God has other plans for me that night.  The purpose of my new hobby is to become better in tune with God and His presence in the universe and my life and to love Him all the more.  So remembering that He is in control of the cloud cover should help me to remember His sovereignty on both the grand scale of redemptive history and the minute details of my life such as whether or not I go stargazing on any given night.

The fact is:  we serve an amazing God who is both Creator and Father.  He the conductor of the cosmic orchestra we see from our terrestrial home and the supporter of our lives who loves us and cares for us even down to the smallest of details.

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