Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1999 09:07:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: CSWA Newsletter of 6/23/99

            AAS Committee on the Status of Women
     weekly issues of  6/23/99, ed. by Priscilla Benson
***  send email and addresses to  ***

This week's issue:

1. Potential demise of Stellafane

1. Potential demise of Stellafane
From: Valerie Coffey Valeriesci-sol.COM

Dear Friends:

The Stellafane Convention and multiple observatories in 
Springfield, VT, mean so much to the amateur astronomy 
community. Stellafane is the largest and oldest amateur 
astronomy gathering in the US. Every year around the time of 
the Perseid meteor shower on August 11 & 12, thousands of 
young and old astronomy enthusiasts from around the world 
gather on a hill in Springfield, VT to camp, attend 
meetings, go to swap meets, enter homemade telescopes in 
competition, and most of all to OBSERVE!! The skies around 
the observatories are perfect for observing. The tree line 
is kept low and the skies are dark, sparkling with stars, 
meteors, satellites, and sometimes, aurorae borealis. Today 
I received a message from MaryAnn Arrien, President of the 
Springfield Telescope Makers, that the dark skies of 
historic Stellafane are threatened by the light pollution of 
a proposed Vermont State Prison less than 3 miles from the 
site! This has moved me to write you all a note of support 
and inspiration for the cause.

I have been to Stellafane many times since I moved to New 
England in 1990. I used to work in the planetarium business, 
and was a member of the Aldrich Astronomical Society in 
Worcester, MA. Stellafane was part of my inspiration to work 
for my Masters in Astronomy. For 14 years I was involved 
with amateur and professional astronomers. I now work in the 
optics industry. MaryAnn's letter to astronomer David Levy 
was passed on to me through the curator of astronomy at 
Boston University. 

Viewing the various objects through the huge telescopes on 
the hill at Stellafane has been my inspiration to study 
astronomy and pass on my enthusiasm to numerous students and 
amateurs through the years. I will absolutely never forget 
standing on the tip top of a 10-foot observatory ladder, 
looking at the Veil Nebula through a 30" Dobsonian that an 
amateur had made. I had waited in line for perhaps an hour, 
enraptured with the Perseid meteor shower going on around 
me. When it was my turn to stand on top of the ladder, the 
telescope maker slewed across what must have been 10 degrees 
or more of the sky, across this incredible, diaphanous 
nebula that I had never seen in my years of operating 
telescopes. Imagine! The Veil Nebula! A sight so faint that 
the world's largest telescopes need extensive exposure time 
to capture it on film. It was only 20 seconds of viewing 
time, but it was the most religious experience I have ever 

And here's another thing I have only seen at Stellafane: 
three galactic arms of the Andromeda galaxy, swooping 
towards the eye and filling the eyepiece of another great 
home-made telescope. And the most spectacular viewing I've 
ever seen of the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, M-13, 
through the McGregor Observatory's Schupmann 13" telescope, 
was at Stellafane. The only time I've ever seen 
aurora...Stellafane. Dozens of huge, homemade telescopes are 
pointed to beautiful objects that can't be seen by the 
average person in very many places in the world anymore. 
People get so excited that they are inspired to pull passing 
strangers over to their telescope and say, "Hey, come look 
and see what I found!" The 1999 Convention is scheduled for 
Aug 13th and 14th. This year I will be bringing my three-
year old son to Stellafane to stay up late and partake of 
the universe. I hope it won't be the last time we can go. 

The next largest amateur astronomy gatherings in the US are 
Riverside in CA, and the Texas Star Party. These 
magnificent, life-affirming experiences at Stellafane will 
no longer be available to New Englanders if light pollution 
invades the darkness of that hill. And a State Prison would 
certainly end the relative darkness of the skies in 

The town vote to approve the Vermont State Prison in 
Springfield comes very soon, on June 29. MaryAnn will be 
stating her case at the Springfield High School auditorium 
June 22 at 7pm. If you can attend, please do so. If not, 
please forward this important message to anyone who can 
help, including news outlets. Please support MaryAnn in her 
fight for dark skies for astronomers at Stellafane. 

The following sites have information on the threat of light 
pollution to astronomers. Please take a look if you don't 
know about this threat to amateur and professional 
astronomers alike: 
New Hampshire Citizens for Responsible Lighting: 

New England Light Pollution Advisory Group:

International Dark Sky Association:  


Valerie Coffey, MS Astronomy
Outreach Coordinator
Scientific Solutions, Inc.
55 Middlesex St. Unit 210
N. Chelmsford, MA 01863
(978) 251-4554
fax (978) 251-8822 
End of CSWA Newsletter of 6/23/99