Built for Stargazing – New York Times

This is so neat. An entire enclave of astronmers:

“The community at Chiefland was, its residents believe, the first astronomy village. It began spontaneously in the 1980s when an amateur astronomer, Billy Dodd (who died this year), retired from his job as a baker and traveled with his wife, Alice, through Florida, looking for skies that offered the clearest views of the stars. They found what they were looking for three hours north of Tampa Bay, in a little-populated area near the Gulf of Mexico. They bought 40 acres six miles south of Chiefland, a town of about 2,000 people, and Mr. Dodd built himself an observatory and trained his telescope and cameras on the stars.

As years passed, he wanted some company, so he subdivided his property and sold it to other amateur astronomers, creating Chiefland Astronomy Village, an unincorporated enclave where property owners agree to observe dark-sky rules. Chiefland’s fame grew when one buyer, Tom Clark, purchased five acres and turned three of them into a communal field for star-gazing, a place where amateurs could — and still can — arrive in R.V.’s and campers and pull out their telescopes.

At times up to 300 people gather in Mr. Clark’s front yard for star parties, including some weeklong events. Rules of the observing field include ‘No white lights anywhere dusk to dawn.’ This means lights inside houses and R.V.’s, car headlights and even interior car and trunk lights are not allowed. There is also quiet time every night and every morning until noon because many of the astronomers stay up observing until dawn.”

If I could stand staying up late and being out in the cold, I’d be looking into this as soon as I could.

But there was a reason that I focused on theoretical astrophysics…

Read the rest here: Built for Stargazing – New York Times

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...