Turning eyes to the stars

Astronomical society sees more children take interest in space

Staff photo / Bob Coupland McKenna Schuyler, 7, of Howland, left, gets assistance from Sam DiRocco of North Lima, a member of the Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society, which hosted a program Saturday to help people learn to set up and use their telescopes. The event was held at the Ward Beecher Planetarium at Youngstown State University, where other space-driven activities can be found throughout the year.

YOUNGSTOWN — While a telescope can be an exciting window into the cosmos, learning to use the instruments to peer into the heavens can be a little bit daunting.

That is why members of the Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society were on hand this weekend to provide guidance and instruction on how to set up a telescope and use it.

Children and adults brought their telescopes Saturday to the Youngstown State University Ward Beecher Planetarium for an instructional event, “So You Got a Telescope,” hosted by the astronomical society.

This year, more children attended, while in previous years adults dominated the event, said Jodi McCullough, president of the MVAS.

Liberty resident Kaleb McQueen, 8, and McKenna Schulyer, 7, of Howland, were both excited to receive telescopes for Christmas. Both attended the event to see how to set it up to view the planets, stars and galaxies.

“I read a lot about stars and planets. This is the first time I have really used a telescope,” McQueen said.

Schulyer said, “I was excited to get the telescope. I really wanted it.”

The astronomical society holds educational events throughout the year to encourage locals to engage with the sky, McCullough said.

“We have many Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society members here to offer their help and advice to telescope owners. People can have one-on-one time with the experts.” she said.

Bob Danko of Champion was there to help the amateurs learn which lenses and magnification works best for certain types of viewing.

“Many people needed help on how to set them up and how to best see things. The program has grown in popularity as more and more people attend each year. We also hold an event in November helping people who want to buy a telescope and what they need to look for and the one that is best for them.” said Tiffany Wolbercht, of the MVAS and lecturer at the planetarium, where there are telescopes available for public use.

As the world turns and warms up, come August, the MVAS will host a viewing night at the Mahoning Valley Cortese Observatory in Braceville.

But, star-gazers don’t have to wait to have some fun this weekend, when the planetarium will hold the annual “Rock the Dome,” with shows each hour 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 and 3 p.m. Saturday.

Wolbercht said the free popular music and light shows “explore the solar system” using the planetarium’s SkySkan Definiti Theater System, combined with popular bands such as Queen, The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

Seating is limited, and on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Visit http://www.wbplanetarium.org/ for more information about the planetarium’s events and http://mvobservatory.com/wordpress/ for more information about the astronomical society.