We Observe by Anthony Mallama

What Now?

We Observe by A. Mallama
1 Youthful Enthusiasm
2 The Moon and Vietnam
3 The Observing Dynasty
Public Awareness
Indian Hill
What Now?

 Updated January 18, 2002

16 Inch Stokes Reflector at Indian Hill Observatory

The 16" Stokes Reflector

 Special Photos:
November 2001 Aurora
November 18 Leonid Meteors


The club is in its twenty-fifth year. In September, we will hold our 300th consecutive monthly meeting. We have a fine observatory, we have provided education to its community, and we have contributed significantly to basic astronomical research. Now is an opportune time to observe the club as it is today, and to look toward the future.

The Hub of the Club

There is perhaps no one individual that has worked harder than Dan Rothstein to make the club what it is now. Astronomy is Dan's only hobby and he has spent innumerable hours at it, working on Indian Hill, helping people build telescopes, giving slide shows to the public, and serving in a wide variety of important club offices. Dan is a twenty-year member of the club, but now that he has his PhD in physics, he might leave the club to take a position out of town. If this happens, the club will have a big pair of shoes to fill.

Denny Jefferson has been with the club almost since the beginning. He is active in many club activities, is recognized as the club's leading mirror maker, and is an inspiration to younger members. I believe Denny will be active in the club for many years to come, partly because he loves the Chagrin area too much to ever be away for long. If I am right, the club will benefit from his long presence.

Steve Fishman is a long time member and has contributed extensively to Indian Hill and other club activities over the years. He was president for two years and served as the club treasurer eight out of the last nine years. He has won notoriety for the club with his astrophotography. Steve is a good, steady force in the club.

Al Havrilla is president during the twenty-fifth year. He is a good team player and has held a wide variety of offices over the last six years. Al has real enthusiasm that rubs off on people and, like Steve, has brought honor to the club lately with his excellent Schmidt camera astrophotography. We hope Steve and Al will continue to lead the club in astrophotography and in important offices.

Bob Modic has come to prominence as the club's Director of Observations. Bob is an avid comet observer and provides up to date information to the members on astronomical phenomena they can look for. Bob should continue to grow in this role and encourage more members to make useful observations.

A relatively new member, Kim Aebi was elected as the first woman president of the club last year. She has great enthusiasm, very good public relations ideas, and an interest in working with students. These qualities will be vital to the club if it is to continue to grow and prosper.

Bob Petti has returned to the club after a few years away. He is the Editor and has recently put out the best issue of the Valley Skywatcher that I have seen in years. Bob is a never-ending source of novel ideas and I believe he has found his niche as Editor. Someone needs to nurture the club's communications vehicle, which has languished for so long and I can think of no one better than Bob.

Don Himes is a recent recruit to amateur astronomy, having been initially attracted by Halley's Comet. He has been secretary for the last two years and contributed some material to the writing of the club's history.

I have never met or spoken to Shirley Flugan, the club's librarian for the past two years. However, I am familiar with some of her work and I hear good things about her.

Likewise, I regret that I have yet to meet Rick Trembour, the current Observatory director. I understand that he has very relevant experience in construction and that should bode well for Indian Hill.

Observatory Maintenance

Part of the job of the Observatory Director is to keep Indian Hill in shape and to upgrade it. There is still more tree clearing to do, electric power has just reached the Observatory, and some of the floor is being replaced because of mildew and rot.

Observatory maintenance has become a continuing source of disagreement in the club, just as was the building of it. Same people say "I don't use it; therefore I shouldn't have to maintain it". Others with more club spirit look upon the observatory as a great club achievement and are happy to help out with whatever work is needed. The dissenters complain that it is too far away, and that they have their own telescopes at home, so it is useless to them. They are right that it is a long drive for most people. The argument about telescopes is wrong though, since the Stokes reflector makes any other telescope in the club puny by comparison.

The approach to observatory maintenance was recently changed so that Director Trembour has a committee composed of Steve Fishman, Dan Rothstein, and Brick Bates, plus a continuous cash fund to work with. This new approach may solve some of the old problems, and quiet some of the arguments.

 The Big Eye on Indian Hill

Few club members are fully aware of the potential of our 16-inch F7, precision mounted reflector. Under dark skies on Indian Hill we have seen the central star in M-57, and traced out the individual spiral arms of M-51. The possibilities for observing with this telescope are unlimited and a person's life could be substantially enriched by exploring the night sky in more detail with it.  

Backyard telescopes are nice, but the 16-inch has twice the light grasp of a 12-inch and three times that of a 10-inch. Furthermore the 122-inch focal length surpasses anyone's backyard telescope to date.

Astronomical Research

The 16-inch Stokes reflector naturally leads into the question of amateurs making valuable observations. Thousands of dollars have been spent sending astronomers to Cerro Tololo Observatory in Chile to observe with a 16-inch telescope there. There is no question about the usefulness of a precision 16-inch telescope to do research.  Of course, a 16-inch is not required. Meteor observing for the American Meteor Society can be done with no more equipment than a lawn chair, a wristwatch, and a means of keeping count of the meteors seen. The dark skies at Indian Hill are an ideal place to do meteor observing either in groups or individually.

The AAVSO is always in need of data on their long list of program stars. This activity takes a little practice, but it is rewarding as you follow your favorite stars through their light curves. The AAVSO and the BBSAG in Switzerland have special sections for eclipsing binary observers.

Observations of the planets and comets should be sent to the ALPO. These observations are fun. You can study Jupiter as its cloud features change over the weeks and months, estimate the brightness of comets, and even chart the unstudied poles of the Moon, which were missed by all the spacecraft. They will send information to interested members.

If photoelectric equipment becomes available to Indian Hill, interested observers should contact International Amateur-Professional Photoelectric Photometry for information on how to get started. This would be a fitting project since the Stokes reflector was one of the first amateur telescopes in the world to be outfitted and used for photoelectric observing.


The observatory maintenance issue once caused Dan Rothstein to attempt to amend the Constitution to require participation in maintenance of Indian Hill in order to maintain active membership in the club. These attempts failed.  

In fact, the attempted amendment has spotlighted the question of amendments in general. There is a feeling in the club that amendments are not the way to go. The Constitution is meant to be strong and hard to amend. The idea of using by-laws to govern the day-to-day activities of the club seems to be gaining support.

Something We Agree On

All the principal members of the club agree that we should be doing more in the community. We have a responsibility to educate and share the wonders of astronomy with the public. Whether this means teaching more classes, having more window displays, having public star parties at Riverside Park again, or running busses from the inner city out to Indian Hill, it has to be done.

In addition to fulfilling our civic duty, we will insure that the club continues to grow, especially from the influx of high school aged students. If you are not growing, you are dying. The club has to be careful not to loose touch with young potential members.

In addition to public relations, the club has to do more to let the young members develop once they find us. One idea is to start a junior section in the club. They could have a Chairman who interacts with the senior officers, but they should retain some autonomy and meet separately. Let them have fun as we did when we were young, but give them guidance so they can avoid some of the pitfalls.

A Ph.D. Astronomer

My own pet peeve is that the club has not produced a single member who has gone on to attain a doctoral degree in Astronomy. That is amazing to me considering all the members we've had. Perhaps it is because intelligence is not sufficiently valued and respected by the club. Perhaps brainy kids elect not to join the club. Perhaps they are not encouraged to pursue Astronomy as a profession. In any case, there is a lot of interest in recruiting younger members at this time. I hope that in addition to general recruiting, the bright kids will be looked after and encouraged to develop all their potential.

One of our neighboring clubs in Ohio has an emeritus member Ph.D. who will ride the Space Shuttle and operate an ultraviolet telescope from space next November. Our club needs people of that caliber. A sober-minded Ph.D. astronomer would bring us great honor. Striving for excellence and the attainment of starry goals is the mark of a first class organization.

Ninety-Nine Years

This is the end of the story of the Chagrin Valley Astronomical Society up to 1988. After twenty-five years, we are going stronger than ever. Some say that the upcoming silver anniversary celebration has sparked new enthusiasm. With this enthusiasm, with the Observatory, with the great members and with the dedication of your emeritus members, the future looks bright.

This story has been about men and the stars. It began with little boys and little telescopes, and developed into a beautiful extended family of men and women. This family has worked, played, laughed, and cried together. We have made horrible mistakes, and celebrated great achievements. We have cared for and helped one-another. Together, we have appreciated and loved the stars.

The club's co-founder, George Gliba, recently reminded me that we will still have the lease for Indian Hill when Halley's Comet returns again in 2061. We won't be there to see it, of course, but maybe some of our children and grandchildren will be. Indeed, our lease on Indian Hill lasts for ninety-nine years. Our principal members believe the Society will live for ages to come.

Click here to go back to the Main Page.