Starsplitter History

Astronomy Facilities

Located within Wyalusing State Park you'll find the Starsplitters of Wyalusing Astronomy Center. Long ago, in the fall of 1999, we got permission from those two deer to go ahead and build an observatory for our amateur astronomy club. A lot of people, businesses, organizations and the State of Wisconsin DNR extended helping hands and funds. Our thanks to all! Groundbreaking took place in October 1999.

Our first project was a rollaway shed for our Celestron12 scope. By the end of '99 we had the platform and pier. The shed was made at the workshop of the Wauseka High School and was precariously transported and placed on its tracks in May 2000; and looking suspiciously, from a distance, like something else. Shortly, we had one operating and permanently mounted telescope to enjoy with a deck and benches for our summer meetings.

A more ambitious project was the construction of a dome-style observatory for the new Meade 10 with its electronic controls and CCD. The order for the 15-ft diameter fiberglass dome had been placed in the spring and delivery was scheduled for later that summer. We scrambled to get a foundation poured. It had to be a circle 16 ft diameter and flat to within a fraction of an inch! Measuring was not easy and pouring concrete even trickier; mosquitoes and heat tried to sabotage our project. But early fall 2000 we had our base accurate to one fourth of an inch and ready for setting up the base ring for the dome. 

A few large cartons had arrived with all the hardware and pieces of fiberglass. It filled up a good portion of the park workshop. The assembly instructions that came with the kit struck me as the "manual from hell". But we wrestled through it and before long we had a ring structure on the concrete base ready for the dome. The dome came in four quarters and a three-part shutter. Once assembled it proved to be a very sturdy structure, but during assembly it was reminiscent of trying to build something out of wet noodles. Many hands were needed to hold up the sections while some braver souls balanced on ladders drilling the holes for the many mounting bolts. 

By October it was a dome standing on blocks in the garage-workshop. Now it was relatively easy, let's say a little less difficult, to disassemble and reassemble the dome onto its base ring. Just before bad winter weather set in we had our dome operational (the supplier of our dome provides an informative website and has available for downloading two large ‘.pdf’ files; check, a must-see for amateurs with “plans”). The scope pier and scope itself followed during the next couple of weekends. Presently we have available to our club and community, two permanently mounted astronomical telescopes and three pads and a deck for portable scopes.

As of mid January 2001, we have been ready for observations. Our regular meetings are scheduled for every second Thursday of the month. Those evening meetings begin at 8:00 PM with a short business meeting at the observatory or in the naturalist’s office, followed by a few hours of observing if the weather permits. 

Everyone interested in astronomy is invited to join in the fun. The requirements for coming and taking a look are simple: dress warmly (that hill is cold in the night), walk up to the observatory, leave your cars parked in the nearby parking lot. It is only a few hundred feet. Please, don't shine your car lights toward the observatory! Have a flashlight with red plastic foil taped over it. Your eyes adapt for night viewing in about 20 minutes, but any bright white flashlight, lantern or car light nullifies that adaptation and we all have to wait 20 minutes again.The observatory parking lot is at 42 degrees 58.921 min N and 91 degrees 6.696 min W at an altitude of 1150 ft and the dome is 250 ft E of it; there is a path. More meaningful, go a quarter mile past the entrance office and turn right in the parking lot, then walk 250 ft eastward on the path, that’s at the right side of the parking area.

Just shout a loud "hello" when you approach the observatory in the dark as not to scare us, and we will assist you in entering the dome or onto the deck. It is advisable to have also your binoculars with you (and in the summer a can of mosquito spray!). But if you did forget that, come anyway and we likely have some binoculars and/or spray available. Ask questions and tell us what you would like to observe. Likely we have no answers, but we love trying to help you, having discussions and showing you the beautiful and marvelous things the skies have for us.We all do remember the first times that we observed the mountains on the moon, the rings of Saturn, the many little moons of Jupiter and its bands and how we were surprised by the different colors of the stars. It will be our pleasure to show you these wonders. We gladly find some far away galaxies and nebulae for you and show these off to you. If the astronomy-bug bites you, we understand, and hope that you will be joining our club, the "Starsplitters".If you are in the neighborhood on a fine viewing night, check if some of us are at the observatory. You are always welcome! A clear sky and a dim moon, or no moon, are indicative of a fine viewing night. There are in this part of the US only 30 or so good viewing nights you can expect per year! That makes thus the chance rather good that some of us will be at the observatory on such a night.
Try us out one of those nights!
The Grand Opening was on June 3, 2001 and we also broke ground on that day for the Huser Interpretive and Educational Center. The Huser Family recently donated the funds for this addition to our Observatory in memory of their father, Lawrence L. Huser.

Our Our Janet Finn plans again on giving classes to introduce Astronomy {link} in 4 evening sessions. The three series she conducted in 2000 and 2001 were a great success.

Dedication of the Starsplitters' Observatory and 

Groundbreaking for the Huser Center.

Sunday June 3rd, 2001

By George Wertwijn
Sunday morning I had to bring some material to the Observatory site and noticed some of my colleague-members setting up the tent and placing sixty chairs underneath it. I judged the tent very appropriate since many clouds looked menacingly down on us. Sixty empty chairs gave me stage fright! Will those chairs be filled at 1:30? What if it would rain? With some misgivings in my heart I went home to pick up my wife and our guest, my nephew, from Australia.

At 1:20 PM we drove back to the Observatory. Pleasant surprise: several park rangers were guiding a steady stream of cars into the parking lot and adjacent field. A quick count taught me that there were over 100 visitors! All seats were filled and several dozen people were standing. Even the weather, even though not great, appeared all right.
At 1:30 sharp Eric Frydenlund, Starsplitters' prez, welcomed the guests and quoted from Robert Frost's poem "The Star-splitter". Neal Kephart of the Wyalusing State Park and Mark Brandt of the Wisconsin State Parks' office told us some interesting historical facts about the Park and the park system. Then Janet Finn of the Starsplitters introduced the man-who-started-it-all, Mark Grunwald, MD. I hoped for a roast, but instead Janet used so many praises that our Mark almost had to blush when he started to tell us about his love for astronomy, that originated already in his early boyhood. He highlighted the cooperation from the Park, the DNR and our many donors and related some of the building history of the observatory (cf. the Astronomy/facilities page of this website).

 After thanking our major*) and minor donors, he asked our Mark Otteson, the tireless volunteer, the precise treasurer and eminent starhopper, to dedicate the Dome. Whereupon Mark O grabbed a monstrous scissors, he could as well have used a chainsaw, and passed the honor of ribbon cutting to Neil Kephart, who snipped the ribbon of the dome-shutter.

Henry Huser, esq., still fighting off some jet-lag effects of his trip from Brussels, Belgium, paid tribute to his late father, Larry Huser, and described the idea of the Huser family to donate toward the Lawrence Huser Educational Center. And finalizing the event, the Huser Family and the board of the Starsplitters showed us all that they can dig the foundation of the Huser Center in mere minutes (by hand!).

Refreshments with appropriately star-shaped cookies (by Janet) followed and we could admire the dome and rollaway observatories.

*) Major donors, listed (alphabetically) in the "Program" and acknowledged, are:
Alliant Utilities
American Building Restoration Products
Dick's Supermarket
Department of Natural Resources Stewardship Grant
Design Homes
Eagle Optics
George Foundation
Mark Grunwald, MD
Gundersen Lutheran
Dennis Hoeger
Huser Family
People's State Bank
Rotary Club
Wauzeka-Steuben High School-Technology Class
Wisconsin Conservation Corps
Women's Civic Club
And many others

A "Thank you" Message from our Starsplitters Prez

At our last Starsplitters' meeting Eric Frydenlund finalized the acknowledgements of our generous contributors with the following press release. Furthermore we had a special demonstration night scheduled for August 25th. The weather did not look cooperative at first, but at the last minute it changed (do we live in Wisconsin or not?) into a very nice viewing night for the occasion. The turn-out was great! More than four dozen took a chance on the weather and lucked out. 
Thanks to all from all of us Starsplitters.
Exploring the wonders of the universe through advanced telescopes will now be available to the extended community of Southwest Wisconsin and Northeast Iowa, thanks to an outpouring of financial and volunteer support from the surrounding area. A very generous response from a recent fund drive, as well as contributions from individuals and organizations that have heard about the project, has enabled the Starsplitters of Wyalusing to build an observatory at Wyalusing Park at a pace that has exceeded its most optimistic expectations. Im very surprised and gratified with the local support that we've received, stated Starsplitters founder and Vice-Chairman Dr. Mark Grunwald. If we had received half of what has been given, we would have been pleased. It's a real testament to the community.
Thus far, the Starsplitters have completed two observatory buildings on the site, located just inside the boundaries of Wyalusing Park on a knoll that affords an excellent view of the night sky. The facility features two telescopes, an 11" Celestron, and a 10" LX200 Meade located in a domed observatory. Three cement pads with electricity located adjacent to the buildings will allow amateur astronomers to set up their individual telescopes.
This fall, with the help of a $50,000 gift from the Huser Family, the club will construct the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Education Center, allowing local astronomers to conduct sophisticated computer imaging from inside the comfort of the Center. The Center will also permit group-presentations and astronomy classes for beginners, as well as advanced projects for science students. Once the Huser Center is complete, the club hopes to focus its time and resources on educational programming that will bring the excitement of astronomy to the communities that have made this project possible.
The Starsplitters of Wyalusing would like to thank the following contributors for their generosity and foresight.
Galaxy Level ($5000 and above): The Huser Family, 3M, DNR Stewardship Grant, Design Homes, Mark Grunwald
Quasar Level ($1000 and above): George Foundation, Wisconsin Electric, Alliant Utilities, People's State Bank, Gundersen Lutheran Clinic, Dick's Supermarket, Dennis Hoeger, Wisconsin Conservation Corps
Solar Level ($500 and above): Rotary Club, Wauzeka-Steuben Technology Class
Planetary Level ($250 and above): Clint Shedivy Memorial Fund, Lori Knapp, Inc., Orion Computers, Randall & Yvette James, Jaycees, American Building Restoration Products, Ralph Wertwijn, Marc Wertwijn
Satellite Level ($100 and above): Christy Pearson Memorial, Tri Cor Insurance, Coaches Family Restaurant, Dental Associates of Prairie du Chien, Mabe's Pizza, McWilliam's Eye Care, Pete's Hamburger Stand, Prairie Anesthesia Services, Czajkowski & Rider, Women's Civic Club, Eagle Optics
Other Contributors: Bill & Deb Schultz, Walz Lumber, River City Sharpening, Orr's Dozer Service, Willy & Nellie's, Franciscan Skemp HealthCare, M&I Bank, Lancaster Community Schools, PdC Area School District, Waterville Library.

Astronomy Facilities

Continued - II

by George Werwijn

By the end of October 2001, the Starsplitters had the foundation for their Huser Center (the Observatory’s Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center) ready and waiting. The State of Wisconsin and the Park had provided a necessary addition as well. Thank you Wisconsin and Wyalusing State Park! The morning of November 6 greeted me with: “The Crane, the Crane!”; that was the telephone call from Janet, already on the site.
In five minutes I was there, camera in hand, that was around 9:00 AM. The first half of the Design Home building was soon in slings; that is dangling in the wind from four steel cables, ¾ inch thick. In the mean time the second half arrived on a large trailer. 

Minutes later the first half stood on the foundation within a tenth of an inch precision; OK, maybe two tenth. The crane pulled the cables from between the structure and the foundation with ease, resembling sucking a spaghetti strand through your lips.
Design Homes’ crew picked up the second half and in no time parked it against the first half. I closed my eyes and held my ears as not to see nor hear the “bang”, but there was none. Ever so gently was the last quarter of an inch shoved in place. The job was almost done by 11:00 AM.

The finishing touches took several weekends. That encompassed connecting the electric cables, filling in the last pieces of siding, staining, gluing in the center-row of floor tiles (that should hold the two halves together at the bottom), filling back the dirt around the foundation, constructing the ramps, finishing the fireplace and chimney, etc., etc.
We were ready though to see Santa Claus coming in from far through our powerful telescopes and could guide him in for some hot cocoa in our new Huser Interpretive Center.

Some additional equipment was acquired too, such as a wide-angle refractor telescope, several accessories, four PC’s and some interesting astronomy software. We also received several astronomy books for our library, covering all levels of complexity from children’s books to some challenging science publications. Reasons enough I think, to become a member of the Starsplitters and receive all the benefits that go along with it!
Our grand opening and dedication of the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center took place on June 2nd, 2002 at 1:30 PM at the Observatory.

Dedication of the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center 

June 8th, 2003

(as recalled and photographed by George Wertwijn)

Our Eric Frydenlund wrote the following article for the Prairie du Chien paper, based on an interview he had with Bill Huser, Larry’s son.

Huser Astronomy Center Dedication
By Eric Frydenlund
"The dedication of the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center on June 8 will be a celebration of both the man who loved Wyalusing State Park, and the Center that will allow park visitors to marvel at the night sky suspended above it.
Located on a grassy hilltop overlooking the wooded ravines and rich farmland surrounding the park, the Huser Center will house the educational resources of the Starsplitters of Wyalusing Observatory. Made possible by a $50,000 gift from the Huser family, the Center features meeting space for astronomy programs, a computer network for displaying astronomy graphics, and a library containing a wide variety of educational materials.
On June 8 at 4 p.m., dignitaries, state and local park officials, Starsplitter members, and the Huser family, including Lawrence's children - Henry, Bill, and Mary - will gather to dedicate the Center and to honor the man whose life and 30-year career at Wyalusing State Park served as an example to all who knew him.
Lawrence L. Huser was born in 1926 to Henry and Susanna Huser, and spent most of his childhood on the family farm near Bagley.
At the age of eighteen he joined the Army, where he went on to serve in the World War II European theatre as a chauffeur to notable military leaders such as generals Bradley and Clark.

However, it was at Wyalusing State Park, where he was hired in 1952 as a conservation aide and would later become a park-ranger and assistant park manager, that Lawrence would make an enduring impression. "He loved the park," says his son Bill Huser of Prairie du Chien…"
The article went on describing several aspects of Lawrence L. Huser’s life (1926- 1999) and character. His irrepressible sense of humor was mentioned among others. I can vouch for that. I had the pleasure of meeting him in his function as park ranger, while I was camping in the Park with my family, and later, after his retirement (and mine), as my friendly neighbor “up the hill on X” and as a travel companion on a couple of bus tours we both happened to take. I was lucky to have Larry as fellow-passenger! He could see humor in almost everything. He enjoyed his two sons and daughter, similar to my family, and, fortunately, we both could brag about our kids as well as laugh at some experiences we recalled. 
Eric F. concludes his article with a fine remark from Larry’s son Bill: “He (L.L Huser) set an example by the way he lived his live.”
As expected, there were several interesting presentations at this Sunday’s gathering; to mention a few:
Eric F. opened the dedication promptly at 16:00, looking back at our last four years and doing the introductions. 

Mike Ripp, the Park manager, recalled the original Rotary luncheon meeting where Dr. Mark Grunwald approached him with the idea of an observatory in the Park. 

The former Park manager, Neil Kephart, now at the Chippewa Flowage, Mike and Mark started the ball rolling and the rest is …
Right after Eric’s introductions, Assemblyman Gabe Loffelholtz presented the Wisconsin Flag to the Starsplitters with some flattering words.
Mike Willman, the State Parks Director, remembered Larry Huser as his colleague and friend during his stay at the Park, 1981-‘83.
The Regional Parks Director, Tim Galvin, now at Horicon, a 27 year veteran with the Parks, gave some nice remarks on the work performed.
Mark Otteson, still glowing from his success a few minutes ago with his computer network system (a touch on the star map on his PC screen and the scope directed itself right to that point in the sky!), remembered the early start up with the roll-away shed in 1999. He presented that as if it was some Precambrian event.
Mark Grunwald, effectively the Starsplitters’ founder, thanked the Huser family for its $50,000 donation; the State for its grant of $36,000, the many private and business donors and the contributors of talent, labor and equipment. A plaque showing all the donors up to the present and a list of the charter members were presented.
Janet Finn, our secretary, was highlighting the educational functions she has been promoting so vigorously, when the rain started. She braved it with her husband, Ted, at her side who brandished his umbrella.
The final speaker was Larry’s son, Henry Huser, still a bit tired from the jet lag of his flight from Buxelles. He tried the umbrella trick, but the wind tricked him by inverting his umbrella. He modestly made reference to the other contributors of the Starsplitters. Then it was time for the actual dedication and the family Huser pulled the cover from the plaque-on-the-rock.

The following set of pictures will give you some more impressions of our Dedication of last Sunday: 

The parking lot of the Observatory filled up fast and so did the “overflow” lot

 Pre-program chats and admiring the “history display” of the Finns

 Filling up the tent

Mr. Willman, State Parks Director Mr. Henry Huser, Esq. in the rain

Henry, Mary and Bill Huser with the plaque-on-the-rock and thus the END

Afterward we all enjoyed company and refreshments, continuing with a pot-luck picnic in the Peterson Shelter. An observation night was planned, but the weather, even though improving a lot, was not fully cooperative. Looking now, 11:00 PM, out of my bedroom window, there is a nice first-quarter Moon in a round halo of haze.

Not every night in Wisconsin is an observation night, but Carpe Diem and Carpe Noctem. And now you are at this point anyhow, take a look at the other write-ups in our website. Our history and equipment description you’ll find in “Facilities”; the “Quarterlies” have our Newsletter issues and if astronomy is your cup of tea, read a some of the “Primers”.


The recent gift of $30,000 by the Huser family to the Starsplitters of Wyalusing for a new telescope and imaging equipment – the second gift in five years – was a pleasant surprise to many. But, to understand the generosity of the Husers, one needs to explore its roots. Generosity, after all, does not grow in barren soil. 

For Henry, Bill, and Mary Huser, that source begins with their parents, who inspired in them a love of nature and a thirst for knowledge. Fittingly, the Huser gift will be used by the Starsplitters to educate young people – and older ones too, we hope – a passion that their mother exhibited in her unwavering encouragement of her children.

Mary Lee was born in 1930 in Iowa to Lee and Mary Krieg as the eldest of six. Growing up during the Depression instilled in Mary Lee an appreciation for hard work that would serve her well. She was thrust into responsibility at an early age, staying home after graduating from St. Mary’s Academy to help care for her siblings after her parents separated. “She sacrificed quite a bit for her own family,” says her daughter Mary. 

Mary Lee read voraciously staying updated on current events and especially politics. After jobs in Prairie du Chien and La Crosse and a brief adventure in Arizona, she eventually landed a job as a legal secretary for the Prairie du Chien law firm of Scheffer and Queram. Her appetite for literature and culture lead her to a fondness of opera. She was known to listen to the Metropolitan Opera and the Grand Ole Opry on Public Radio. Perhaps it was her love for dancing that ultimately attracted her future husband, Lawrence.

Lawrence L. Huser was born in 1926 to Henry and Susanna Huser, on a farm near Wyalusing. His parents died less than 5 months apart when Larry was only 16. The family farm was then sold and for awhile Larry lived with family in Indiana, but returned in his senior year of high school to Bagley to graduate. He went on to study auto and truck mechanics in La Crosse before being called up to serve in the Army, where he trained in Camp Hood and served the last years of WW II in Europe chauffeuring military officers, including Generals Bradley and Clark.

In 1946, he returned to Prairie du Chien and entered into partnership with Loren Slaght in the construction business. After selling his interest in the business in 1952, he began his tenure with Wyalusing State Park, a job that would become both a career and his passion for the next 30 years. No job could have been a better fit. His love of the outdoors, knack for fixing machinery, and penchant for meeting and talking with people placed Lawrence into the very fabric of the visitor experience at Wyalusing State Park. “I can’t imagine him doing anything else,” confirms his son Bill. 

Lawrence’s first wife, the former Geraldine Stram, died in 1956, leaving him as a single parent of their only child, Susan. Looking for someone who could watch Susan while he worked, Lawrence met a woman who he found “very intriguing.” Lawrence and Mary Lee were an instant hit, complementing one another exceptionally well; they married in 1957. Each brought their unique skills and interests; Larry’s gardening proficiency resulted in Mary Lee learning how to can and make jams, while her intellectual talent opened new worlds to him. And in dancing, they cultivated a bond that would endure many years, as they displayed their considerable talents on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Mary Lee and Larry were rather strict parents and devout Catholics. Typical for people growing up in the depression years, they were frugal and conservative. However it was Larry’s love of the outdoors and Mary Lee’s value of education that would have the most lasting impact on their children. Frequent picnics at Wyalusing State Park and beach, as well as Klondike Park near Lancaster, instilled in Henry, Bill, and Mary their father’s enduring passion for nature and respect for its preservation. 
Meanwhile, mother had high expectations for her children’s education and intellectual growth. Henry, born in 1958, was exposed to public speaking through meetings of the local Optimist Club. Bill recalls being read to by his mother from her list of favorite books, while Mary marvels at the stories of compassion and resilience of her mother.

Mary Lee died in 1971, her life cut tragically short by a brain tumor at the age of 41, leaving daughter, Mary, age 8, sons, Bill, 11 and Henry, 12 in father’s care. Mary Lee had laid down the right foundations for her threesome and Dad did a great finishing job, assisted later by his third wife, Mary. Life, obviously, has not been easy for Larry, but his faith, his right outlook on life and his quick wit enabled him to tackle courageously and successfully whatever obstacles came his way. He loved “his” Park and those who met him could tell it showed.

Lawrence continued his work at the Park, retiring in 1982 as Assistant Park Manager and Ranger. His health was not the best, but he coped well until his death in 1999.

However, it’s the lives that survive Larry and Mary Lee that offer the most compelling testament to their values. With their original gift of $50,000 in 2001, the Husers helped establish the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center, a primary facility in the Observatory complex that sits atop a knoll in the Park that Lawrence adored. And with their recent gift, the Husers have offered an opportunity to educate thousands of children and young adults about the wonders of astronomy. The funding will allow sophisticated imaging with the new 16” Meade telescope and camera, as well as allow for experimental projects for serious students. 

The Huser Observatory will be one of the best-equipped amateur facilities in Wisconsin and Iowa and will offer simultaneous viewing via ‘computer-and-projector’ for large audiences seated comfortably in the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center. It will be symbolic of their farsightedness as evidenced by the success of their children.

Bill described his mother as, “very loving, kind, and a caring person,” evident in the legacy she has left in her children. And speaking of her father, Mary Huser put it succinctly. “He went through so much adversity. Yet, he never gave up on life; never lost faith. He never, ever gave up.”

Indeed, through the generosity of their children, Lawrence L. and Mary Lee Huser continue to give. 

Note on Mrs. Mary Lee Huser:

Had Mrs. Mary Lee Huser lived till now, she would be 85 … my age. Larry and Mary Lee were married in 1957. Their children, Henry, Bill and Mary Regina were only 13, 11, and 8 years old, when their mother died in 1971 from that terrible cancer… way too young at 41.

The “three children” remember their mother (also a legal secretary) dearly and have great appreciation for her efforts in reading to them, while fighting cancer, and giving them educational foundations that have served them very well. In her memory the Husers presented these astronomical facilities to the Starsplitters of Wyalusing.

As outreach to the community, Starsplitters are providing in Wyalusing State Park their astronomical-programs twice a month with demos, plus monthly discussion meetings on astro-physics around the night of Full-Moon, when stargazing is impossible. These programs and discussions are indicative of our educational-astronomical goals and presented in memoriam to the late Mrs. Mary Lee Huser.

George Wertwijn dd. 7/14/2015


With the new projector this picture is shown as 5 x 3.5 ft on the screen.
Three 12 inch Newtonian telescopes have been added for the demonstrations

Overview of 2015: A Thank You to the Huser Family

The Huser family has supported the Starsplitters enormously! Starsplitters have kept the Husers informed and involved. In this Christmas Greeting, I believed an overview for the year 2015 of the Starsplitters would highlight our activities investing their gift of December, 2014. It took that long as you will see in this overview.
      Hello Henry,
With our Christmas Greetings I am sending you, Bill and Mary, a short Overview of our Starsplitters activities for 2015.
The acquisition of the three large, 12” Dobsonian scopes is a great success for our demos. The bigger scopes draw bigger crowds! These Dobson “stovepipes” are sturdy and very simple. We made them mobile to ride them out and store them afterwards.
Our roll-away shed required 8 new rail-wheels; a major job but perfect for our old “go-to” 10” scope with auto-tracking. A Starsplitter finds the objects and lets the scope track for 15 minutes; with his/her laser-pointer the location is shown clearly. Most of our visitors, approaching now thousand for the year, have then no trouble aiming the Dobsons. They try enthusiastically and are surprised how clear and beautiful the image is. These Dobsons require that they do the tracking movement for the next visitor in-line. To my surprise they rarely need our assistance. 
If clouds demand that we extend the indoor-intro to a full program we appreciate the new projector and our visitors love it. The large screen and bright projection assure that everyone in the room sees perfectly.
For serious observing the Starsplitters operate the 14” Intelli-Dobson, a Dobson-design, large but not requiring a ladder, and having the benefit of coordinate readings. Our president, Jean, used it to study successfully for Master-Observer. The “Lunatics-group” uses the 16“ Huser Scope/Camera, computer controlled, and spends late hours imaging celestial objects of interest. Our “Gallery” in appears to be well-known.
So far four of us developed quite some knowledge of astro-photography. Upgrading our computer programs from Sky6 (2006) to the recent SkyX took us the better part of 2015. We also decided to add visual observing to our astro-photography and added advanced-collimation (alignment) equipment. I found out that certain necessary adapters had to be specially made. The Richie-Cretienne accessories did not go on our 16” Meade-LX-200R Telephoto Apparatus (our Huser Scope). It was much harder than expected. It took help from friends and Google; the local Wolff Machine Shop earned special mention for machining a difficult adapter perfectly (for only $150). Using the Huser Scope in the visual mode is nice a few times per year; the switch back can be made quickly in the afternoon before the nightly imaging session.
On Thursdays around Full Moon we have our monthly Lunatic evening, a discussion group for Starsplitters interested in the physics behind it. A second reason for the name is that near a Full Moon stargazing is impossible, even the Moon is then too bright.
As discussion material we’ve used our DVD lessons and TV’s science programs and this year we advanced to the easier published papers by “real” astronomers. I’ve chosen to include here a very recent paper and related to the 100 yr anniversary of Einstein’s General Relativity on Dec 2nd, 2015. We had to get some working knowledge of GR and the main points of Quantum Mechanics, QM, 1900 &1905. Two major theories in Physics, both giving excellent results and both are a century old. The time and effort the Lunatics had to devote to grasp the bare minimum were substantial! And even then we had to spent several discussions to deal with Black Holes.

          The main puzzle for us was to appreciate why two almost perfect theories of Physics are totally incompatible even after 100 years of trying by geniuses as Einstein, Hawking and Penrose to improve and complete them.
Black Holes form after large stars run out of fuel; the hydrogen to helium conversion goes slow. Our Sun might last 10 billion yrs, we are about half way; Sun is not large enough to have its gravity compress it into a BH. A star with 6-8 solar masses is large enough for gravity to collapse the dying star to a black hole. Very large BHs are formed from merging BHs.
Einstein/Schwarzschild calculated the radius of a BH, Rs; but what is it? General Relativity teaches that the gravitational collapse of a small depleted star (Sun’s density ~10*5 kg/m3) is to a white dwarf (~10*9 kg/m3); medium dying stars (1.2 to 4 solar masses) end up as neutron stars (10*18 kg/m3); large and very large stars end up as BHs (100 to billions solar masses or up to 10*30 kg/m3). General Relativity defines the BH as a “singularity”, a point representing the center with all the mass. From that singularity (point) to the sphere with radius Rs, the BH’s gravitational pull is so large that even light gets trapped in that sphere. Everything coming as close as Rs to the BH gets guzzled up and nothing can come out!
I can go in without knowing or sensing it, but that’ll be my end; I’ll be “spaghettified”, stretched and ripped apart, vaporized and reduced to neutrons and then energy plus quarks. As soon as I go through the spherical surface I cannot convey any signal into the rest of the Universe, nor can I come out. If you were watching me passing through, you’ll see me coming to a halt right at the surface and then just dim out. That surface carries the appropriate name of “event horizon”, EH. No events inside are observable. Physics as we know just stops. The BH has only gravity and spin, angular momentum. The EH we see (don’t see) as a dark disc, is sometimes referred to as its shadow.
How big is that curtained-off EH? Good question, but no physics, hence no direct measurements exist. There is that sphere blocking all inquiries. General Relativity only yields the Rs.
Our Milky Way galaxy has a BH in its center (Sgt A*)’, the mass is 4 million solar masses and Rs ~ 0.1 Astronomical Unit (or abt 10 million ml), hardly a “point” or singularity! Andromeda is larger than MW and the BH in its center has a mass of 140 10*6 solar masses, hence an EH of 3.5 AU. The centers of galaxies are “dusty” and hard to photograph, IR imaging helps.

          M87 is a real big galaxy with a big BH in its center. We see it from Earth more head-on, which is advantageous, but it is 2,000-3,000 times farther from us than Andromeda. Even with a mass of three Billion solar masses (3 10*9) and a Schwarzschild diameter of ~ 150 AU it is almost too small to image the BH disc from Earth. A sphere with a diameter of 150 AU will encompass all of our Solar system till near the Kuiper Belt! This whole volume, the EH of M87’s BH, is curtained-off for physics… inaccessible!
The project EHT, Event Horizon Telescope, is trying to image the MW’s BH in the infra-red by combining the images of a dozen telescopic cameras around the world. There is a good chance that the results will become available next year, 2016. Since no one has observed a BH, the problem is for what image to look!
Hard to comprehend to say the least! Quantum Mechanics describes this volume as occupied by “stuff”, compressed and ripped apart into high density energy, photons, quarks, electrons etc. The distribution of this “stuff” inside the EH is not known; only known are the total mass, the angular momentum or spin, the EH’s Rs or Schwarzschild radius and thus the surface of the sphere.
Discussing these matters, including following the most recent publications, is what keeps us interested in Astronomy. We cannot take ourselves too serious, but simply enjoy our discussions, baked goodies and soda drinks around the fireplace during the winter or cooling fan in the summer. It is just amazing how much we learn from picking apart our crazy suggestions and occasionally even those of the scientific publications.
Merry Christmas and a Great 2016 to you all and families.
Thanks, George 
Ps. I’ve added some pictures and samples of interest (I hope):

Picture of the capture of Tom's minutes dd.11/12/2015
          The Lawrence L & Mary Lee Huser 16” Telelens/SBIG Camera on ME Mount


          The same with an exchangeable Visual Adapter for Eyepieces


          Photo of 2 of the three 12” Dobsonian Scopes made “drivable”

       The 5th Mary Lee Huser Presentation for Astronomy in the Series, re: 100 yr Anniversary of the General Relativity on Dec 2nd, 1915

(Power Point will be uploaded soon)   

Notes of the Lunatics Mtg of 11/19/2015
Dec 2, 1915 to Nov 19, 2015 makes 100 yr since Einstein’s GR publication! Space-time and E=mc*2 and … too many to list; just picking Mercury’s perihelion (1915), in 1919 Eddington measured the bending of light and in 1920 his equations predicted a non-static Universe -surprise-, Black Holes etc. 
The Texas Symposia, bi-annually, started in 1963; now the 28th one is (was) in Geneva, 12/13-18/2015. The emphasis is on GR’s influence on Physics. Lately the Event Horizon Telescopes, EHTs, are in focus. Can BH’s be seen? 
          EHT slide 1, the interferometric coupling of many scopes, (cf files H-2&7)
The BH has never been seen… yet! It’s black and way too small! Come on: The Earth as a BH would only be the size of a golf ball (but not physically possible). The Sun would make a BH with a diameter of 4 ml, but still not possible.  The BH of our MW, in Sgt A*, has a mass of 4 million S-Ms, a radius of 0.1 Astronomical Units (abt. 1/5th of Mercury’s orbit). Not that small and the BH is doing OK; not seen yet, but will be soon! Actually it is still very small; we will see it as a 15 micro-arc.sec object, the size of a poppy-seed in LA as observed from NY-city. 
How will we recognize MW’s BH? Ask the Einstein equations! That will result in a SIMULATION, a helpful one. Looks like slide 2: 
          EHT slide 2 (simulation!) 
That will help interpreting the composite image of all the cameras being employed next year or so…or will it? We studied the research of Andrea Ghez; remember?
The cameras for this effort are IR-ones, set for 1 mm wavelength, near microwave. The image is the BH’s “shadow” against the background of hot gas and dust of our MW’s dense center near Sagittarius A*. Space-time around the BH is so warped that light (EM waves) wraps around the BH, creating a “crown”. The Einstein-lensing enlarges the shadow 5 x’s. Expect therefore the shadow’s image to be 25 pxls across! Not much, but still quite an accomplishment. 
What is needed to correct for the interferometric corrections? Way beyond my knowledge, unfortunately! 25 pxls across come to 625 pxls for the BH, that’s 1000 to 2000 pxls to adjust. With PhotoShop we can easily “over-correct”, make it look like slide 2. 
EHT is planning for imaging the BH of M87 already. That BH is 6 10*9 SMs, but is located 2000x farther. Its EH is 1500x wider than that of our MW, making the EH’s diameter larger than the orbit of Puto; and that is just a singularity? The space within the EH is beyond physics as we know it.

The second focus of the Texas Symposium is on the GWs, Gravitational Waves as predicted by Einstein. These waves in the space-time fabric are caused by accelerating masses and spreading at light velocity. Space-time is very “stiff”; therefore the amplitudes of these waves are very small; too small to be measurable according to Einstein…then. Now, however, we should be able to measure the GWs from two neutron stars orbiting each other fast. 
Famous is the 1974 attempt of Hulse and Taylor to do just that for the pair of neutron stars, PSR B1913+16. No GWs have ever been seen directly! But these two were (are) very smart; If GWs are generated, then energy is carried away by the waves. What energy can that be; the orbital energy of course. This will result in the pair’s separation to become smaller.  Indeed the 6 minute orbit of the pair of neutron stars shortened by a fraction of a second over a few years. This INDIRECT detection of GWs earned Hulse and Taylor the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics. 
Quantitatively their measurements proved the accuracy of Einstein’s GR. GWs became more famous and are now part of modern Physics and Astrophysics.

A third concentration is on the cosmic structure. We spent a few months trying to understand it, recollect Whittle and Tully-Courtier. 3D mapping of the stars and galaxies, leading to the structure of the ”web”, is receiving much attention. Our Universe is homogeneous on large scale, but it has a structure with “walls”, “webs”, “filaments” and “clusters”. This structure teaches us how our Universe developed from the BB to the present Universe. It might also explain how the expansion accelerated 7 Billion years ago. The Einstein-deSitter solution of the GR equations for an “empty” or near empty Universe shows an expanding Universe, add matter (mass) into it and the expansion will slow down and even reverse into a collapse. If all the mass was present at or shortly after the BB, the Universe started with a very high matter-density. This then would have favored the formation of large stars, large BHs and galaxy-clusters. Expansion dilutes the matter density, but strangely the density of Dark-Energy appears to stay constant (property of the quantum-vacuum). The DVDs of Whittle of 2012 -3 dealt with these properties at length; do you still remember? 
Now there is emphasis on detailed 3-D mapping, hoping that better details will reveal the underlying Physics of it all. The Euclid Satellite of ESA will soon be launched; it will automatically plot, map, everything in sight to a red-shift of 0.8. This means we can go as “deep” as half-way, time-wise. Imaging and plotting the very distant galaxies will yield information on the causes of Einstein-lensing.       
           Slides 3 & 4 LSST and DESI
The LSST (Large Synoptic Survey Telescope) and DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument) are earthbound mapping efforts in Germany and Chile. The LSST will have an 8.4 m mirror, f/1.8, and be operational in 2023 to survey and monitor 37 Billion stars and galaxies almost automatically; DM and DE can be studied! 
South Africa and Australia are readying the SKAs, the large Square Kilometer Arrays of radio telescopes. They will map the large Hydrogen clouds in the Universe and indicate where and when the early galaxies might have formed.
A new approach for Astronomy is forming. The math required for GR in astronomy is too much for astronomers, a new specialty branch of “astro-math-Physicists” (Lunatics-on-steroids?) is growing. Earlier in this century ESA started its Cosmic Visions Program. Prof. Ferreira (Oxford, UK) is an active organizer and fundraiser, he wrote the popular, non-math book on GR, “The Perfect Theory”. I like it a lot and have it available for Lunatics.

The December Sky&Tel of December 2015 featured also a large article on GWs, “GWs Hit Prime Time” by Schilling, Dutch astronomer and editor for Sky&T . 
New plans and old results for the GW searches were the theme of the 11th Edoardo Amaldi Conference in South Korea (at Gwangju). There are two dozen or so, well equipped laboratories spread over the globe searching for GWs with LIGOs and LISAs (Laser Interferometric GWs Observatories & Laser I. Space Antenna). 
The large LISA is ready to be launched from French Guiana, Kourou. This experimental satellite is the fore-runner of the GW laboratory-in-space of 2034. We discussed the latter last year in detail; it is the million mile long triangle in far-out space with the three golden interferometers. Three satellites are stable in the large triangle, I don’t know if they are adjustable or that the drifts are slow and distinguishable from the GW-caused wiggles. 
The frequency of these wiggles can be anything from nano-Hz (wave-length 300 l-y) to kilo-Hz (lambda~ 1 km). Einstein’s theory predicted this, but Einstein published it a few years later; he believed the GWs would be too small to measure and therefore unimportant. Weber and Hulse got interested in the 1970’s in GWs and it paid off for Hulse and Taylor with a Nobel Prize in 1993. 
But, in the mean time, neither direct nor useful indirect measurements were made by 2010. By that time it was speculated that the Planck Satellite AND the SouthPole project with BICEP 1& 2 would result in the promising showing-up of GWs as an imprint on the CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background). We spent much time following the publications of GWs causing a polarization, the B-mode, of the microwaves in the CMB. Minute temperature fluctuations and polarizations were indeed measured. They were not even that minute! 
It turned out that the polarization-effects of microwaves by magnetized dust particles in our upper atmosphere were an order of magnitude greater than that from the GWs on the CMB-image. That was published in early 2014. Too bad, but very interesting nonetheless. 
The principle of LIGO is simple, the optical equipment very demanding: 
          Slide 5. 
Any shocks from terrestrial movements, such as far away truck traffic, a train passing miles away or constructions going on in the next town, result in noise. Hence walk on socks, measure at nights and still no good signals after 8 years. 
The Advanced-LIGOs should be able to detect the GWs made by two neutron stars merging at a distance of 500 million l-y. And such events happen several times per year. The change in lengths in the two arms of 4 km will only amount to less than a millionth of a nanometer, but proved to be possible in tests. But no GWs detected this way… yet. 
Will we have to wait till 2034 for the million ml advanced LISA? You might, I cannot. 
Astronomers are impatient, well some are. And they came up with a wild, but promising idea. It is the PTA, Pulsar Timing Array. Pulsars are extremely good time keepers (equal or better even than Atomic Clocks!) and their light-beams, radiation jets, are extremely bright. The arrival times of the beats of the pulses depends on the distance of the pulsar from us. When a GW passes through (visualize this as concentric arcs) they will squeeze and stretch space a little. I, observer, will see this as a variation in the pulsar’s distance. 
I observe several pulsars, many pulsars, they are bright! I know the directions and distances of all these observed pulsars. I put the variations, caused by their GWs in an Array. For each GW I collect these data in a PTA format. Now I need a mathematical whizz-kid to help me interpreting statistically, the properties of the GW. It might give me a headache, but I will know the properties of the GW now, just as good as the measurements of the million-mile advanced-LISA will give me in 2034. 
          Slide 6 
Confused? It took me some time to grasp the gist of it. The slide picture is not all that helpful. Give it a night and you could get it. 
My problem came a bit later, when I was wondering what to expect from a GW, Gravitational Wave. 
Back to Govert Schilling’s paper on page 26 of Sky&T’s Dec issue. He could not convince me any better; that statistical approach is over my head. Hope you can get more out of it. 
Till Jan 21, 2016 for the next Lunatics mtg and a very Happy New Year!

Compilation of the Husers’ replies to my Christmas Greetings 

HH: “…Thanks very much for your Overview, the attached photos, and the power point copy of the Mary Lee Huser 5th Presentation lecture. I have reviewed all with immense pleasure and admiration for the commitment that you and all the Starsplitters have to utilize the facility in so many ways to facilitate the educational experience for park visitors, local children and yourselves. Our parents would be very proud to be associated with this project and the people, such as you… etc.

May you have many clear, dark nights in 2016!...”

MH: “…responding to your email with all the amazing attachments. I especially like your sense of humor embedded throughout… and the danger of being spaghettified! You made me laugh!...”

Me: I have not yet pointed out to Mary Huser (Larson) that “spaghettified” was from Nigel Calder’s ”Key to the Universe”, 1977, and brought to fame in Stephen Hawking’s “Brief History of Time”, 1988. But I will.
BH: “…Thank you very much for the photos and updates. You and the rest of the Starsplitters have much to be proud of. Merry Christmas to all!...”
 Me: I concluded that the Husers liked and appreciated this Overview.


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