Telescopes and DIY Flying Saucers

Flying Saucers aliens landed in my yard a week before Halloween. I expected them to be giant spiders, but then Phil Plait posted this article about people who had never seen the stars. The nearest science center is more than an hour away, and the neighborhood kids were as unfamiliar with space as the people in Phil’s blog. So while putting Tiger’s almost 4ft tall Dobsonian telescope in the yard on a night known for mischief might been crazy, it was something I’d looked forward to for months.

saucer and aliens


crashed ship

Hence the two flying saucers – a 7ft landed and 4 ft crashed, each with flashing lights and remote control smoke machines, and a pair of aliens made from found items.  The aliens came out first, a week before the big night. Neighbors immediately started asking us what our plans were. We just told them to bring the kids. Then on Halloween night we set out the telescope and the sign. We blew up alien head balloons so the really little kids could take part in the fun.

Before too long we had our first princess.





A few of the adults didn’t know what a refractor was, or where you looked from. We decided everyone should have a look. It turned out the kids were more patient. This Amazon Princess even let her Mom go first.



The telescope is on a pivot system, just about anyone can move it. Parents expected it to be too heavy, but the kids grabbed it with both hands. Each one of them announced what they saw. We had a rather impressive amount of comets and asteroids for a normally calm night. I suppose I should’ve corrected them, pointed out the real stuff, but I couldn’t bring myself to stop them from smiling.

It’s November now. The skulls and pumpkins have been put away. We try not to start planning for next year until December, but there’s already been talk, just vague thoughts about pirate ships or Wonderland mushrooms on the lawn. Funny thing though, every conversation ends with the same question, but how would we tie in the telescope?


Road Trip through Time

I think best on my feet, moving forward, doing something. I’ve had a lot to think about lately, so I decided I needed to move. This is the first year in long time I won’t be packing up, picking a new town, new house, new life. I needed to keep moving though, so a start-of-summer road trip was perfect. I’d heard from a friend of a friend that there was a good strawberry crop in southern Virginia, just a few hours away. The directions to the u-pick farm were delightfully southern. Highway for a few hours. Then take the Ferry by the old Fort.



Drive down the road until you see the abandoned house.


It’ll be on your right. Unfortunately a lot of people heard from a friend of friend, and the fields were pretty picked over. Worse, there wasn’t much to be had in the way of lunch. Don’t worry I managed to improvise. And by improvise, I mean wait until the farmer brought a fresh strawberry pie out of the oven and devour it while it was still warm:

strawberry pie

Pie isn’t much for substance though, and driving through backroads gives you the impression you’ve driven through decades instead of miles. This gas station proved it:.

035 034



They directed us to ‘town’ for lunch, where the feeling of turning back the clock only got worse.
The local movies theater’s summer display:


Pulled up by the post office:


old car

The post office (note the nuclear shelter symbol on the wall, I haven’t seen those for a while):


nuclear shelter


I talked to a few locals, and discovered I wasn’t back in time, just in a place that didn’t feel the need to catch up. Grabbed a quick lunch at the local diner, followed by some pictures of the only hotel in town (which sadly didn’t have a room for me for the night):


old houseI decided I’d rather head back toward my own era. One of the folks caught me shooting photos though. These digital snaps are my test shots. When I really shoot, it’s on a mechanical 35mm older than I am. I think that’s why he directed me to the tree outside of town – the one with “a skull in the roots”. At first you don’t see it, then you kind of do:





Needless to say, I was happy to get home. Even happier to be greeted by one of my amaryllis in full bloom. They only bloom at Christmas but I guess their calendar was a bit off this year.



It brought me a smile. People say time heals all wounds. My trip through time helped mine enough that I’m already day dreaming about the next one.