University Lowbrow Astronomers

A Private Night on Peach Mountain.

Recently the University Lowbrow Astronomers held a program at the Peach Mountain Observatory demonstrating a unique indirect method unto which Astronomy can be promoted while providing financial support to other community based organizations.

by Randy K. Pruitt
Printed in Reflections: September, 2001.

Last year several months after I moved to Ann Arbor I began attending the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ann Arbor.  There, I found that the Church was and is involved with many community programs such as the development of a children’s center, Habitat for Humanity and the development and support of a shelter for homeless families called Alpha House.  Which, had recently gone into operation on Jackson Rd.  in Ann Arbor.

One method that the Church uses to help fund it’s programs is the use of a Service Auction.  This is where people sell their services such as plumbing and carpentry work to the highest bidder wherein the money then goes to the Church and it’s programs.  This Auction is held annually in April.  I first learned of the Auction during the coffee hour after service in late January.  Valerie, the woman who organized the Auction, to my surprise as I stood at her table, asked me if I had any services I could sell.  I then half heartily retorted, “say how about the cosmos!”  She looked puzzled for a second and then asked what I meant by that.  I then told her I was with the University Lowbrow Astronomers and suggested the sale of a family outing at the Peach Mountain Observatory.  Valerie quickly agreed, though I told her I would have to clear it with the Lowbrows and that I would provide her with an outline of that evenings events.

I brought the outline to the March Meeting of the Lowbrows and gave it to Mark Deprest to set it before the Club for passage.  Where, it was then passed.  April came at the Church; the service auction was held and like many other services sold that day so was also a family outing at the Peach Mountain Observatory compliments of the University Lowbrow Astronomers.  These services are sold by a closed bid system so it wasn’t until a Month and a half later that I learned the name of the family that bid highest for the service to be rendered.  The family’s name was Bruce and Sara Gibb.

Contact was made with the Gibbs early in June where two tentative time lines were developed that followed the periods of the new moon in the months of July and August that would best fit the Gibbs schedule, weather permitting of course.  After one failed attempt in July due to the weather (like that’s any surprise in Michigan) the evening at Peach Mountain finally arrived for the Gibb Family on Tuesday the 14th of August.  Part of the arrangement at the service auction was that the family, which purchased the service, could also bring along a few close friends as well, which they did.

The Gibbs was scheduled to arrive at Peach Mountain at 21:00hrs unto which they arrived at about 21:10.  Two vehicles arrived at the same time and parking was immediate.  I then informally greeted the Gibbs and their Party then ushered them down the path to the Observatory.  Upon arrival to the Observatory several of the Lowbrow members Mark Deprest, Bernard Friberg and Dave Snyder were standing by to assist with the evening events.  At that time formal introductions were made on both sides.

Mark Deprest started the evening event out with a tour of the 24inch McMath Telescope, starting with an explanation of the primary and secondary mirrors.  Mark then led the Gibb Party around to the front explaining the differences in telescope design reflectors, refractors and so on.  He then led the Gibb Party outside to where several smaller telescopes one 8 inch dobsonian from inside and one Mark had brought with him which appeared to be either a 12 or a 14 inch dobsonian.  Throughout the evening explanations as to terms like Right Ascension and Declination, Star Maps and their uses, Globular V/S Open Clusters, Galaxies our Milky Way and other Galaxies, the Great Rift and so much more were discussed.  Finally, the culmination of the evening event came when Mark presented a dissertation on classical Greek and Roman Constellation Mythology.  This seemed to have the effect of wooing questions out of some of the women in the Gibb Party.  The evening event concluded at approximately 23:45 hours.  At this time, I ushered the Gibb Party back to the parking lot and along the way they thanked me for such a cordial and personal evening.  All and all, the evening went very well with many questions and answers throughout the evening.  When the Gibb Party left some of the women were still excited about the Greek and Roman stories.


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