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Oklahoma skies

To all the amateurs out there, thanks!

Some years ago I was at a party when a guy introduced himself and said, “Wally told me that you like astronomy!” A mutual friend knew that he was an amateur astronomer and had told him, “You really ought to talk to Jeff Hester.”

“Astronomy?” I replied, somewhat puckishly. “I suppose I have some passing interest in the subject.”

I recognized the look. My new friend beamed! Maybe he would get to talk about his passion after all, without his family reading him the riot act for killing an otherwise perfectly enjoyable party!

I’ve been there. My own passion began as a kid when I first looked through a 3-inch dime-store refractor in a friend’s backyard. I still recall Steve sitting there proudly in the dark next to his new window on the universe. And the blurry image of Saturn and its rings in the eyepiece of the tiny telescope was just about the coolest thing I had ever seen.

Steve, who was a few years older than me, quickly got serious about the hobby. He built a 6-inch Newtonian reflector and a German mount that we used to explore the sky. I went on to build telescopes as well, and I still have an 8-inch mirror that I ground and polished by hand sitting in my office. But that 6-inch Newtonian is where I cut my teeth as an astronomer.

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