Talking telescopes – SRQist :: Article from SRQ magazine by Brittany Mattie


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The longtime celestial tourist brings childlike wonder to all ages with his field of vision.

At 70, Ed McDonough has seen a lifetime of stars and Saturn’s rings. Growing up in the 60s during the space race with parents who loved to watch the moon sparked a real intrigue to explore the deep sky and the solar system. “There was a short-lived TV show in the 1960s called Men in space which aired every Wednesday night, ”McDonough shares. “My dad and I would never miss it, we would sit down to watch it and I was mesmerized.” His parents saw how interested him in space and surprised McDonough, 10, with a Christmas present of a small 60mm refractor to play with. At 16, they upgraded it to the real deal: a 6-inch reflector. “Back then, it really was the telescope to die for,” McDonough recalls. Since then he has looked through the mirror to see many colors and phases of the moon, countless constellations, scanning the solar system deeply to distant galaxies and looking at Jupiter and Mars. “But by far the best sight, and the most unforgettable, is when you see Saturn and these rings,” he shares. “A lot of people think I painted them on the lens when I let them look into it.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BISHOP, BISHOPSCIENCE.ORG, @BISHOPSCIENCEFL

McDonough worked for Celestron for 25 years. Working for one of the world’s largest telescope manufacturers and distributors has its advantages. If his 10-year-old self could see his arsenal of powerful yet portable telescopes, it’s safe to say he would find it pretty stellar. One of his must-haves, McDonough shares being his Celestron NexStar 8SE 203mm Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope, featuring an especially large aperture to attract more light and see deeper into space to observe everything from the Moon and planets to deep sky objects like stars, galaxies and nebulae. But what is a great optical instrument for observing the planets without a clear, unpolluted sky? A Florida resident for 10 years now, McDonough has come to learn, you are hardened to see anything from June to September. Things start to brighten up in October and in January and February the night sky is at its brightest to observe. As we arrive in May, the geography of the Florida Peninsula is heating up the air in the summer, blocking the human eye from what lies beyond the thick moisture clouds forming, sharing McDonough. Stick to astronomical adventures in winter and watch for the occasional public outings of the Bishop Museum of Science + Nature ‘Seeing Stars With The Bishop’ during viewing season with McDonough and the museum’s chief astronomer and planetarium director , Howard Hochhalter, at Robinson Preserve. Robinson is nestled just far enough in the natural remoteness to provide a dark corner with little to no light pollution, ideal for solar exploration.

Ed McDonough has a front row seat to the nighttime spectacle of the cosmos, looking through his Sky-Watcher Evostar 120ED 900mm Apochromatic Refrator lens near Myakka State Park.

ED MCDONOUGH HAS SEATS IN THE FIRST ROW OF THE COSMOS NIGHT SHOW, LOOKING THROUGH HIS APOCHROMATIC REFRACTOR LENS SKY-WATCHER EVOSTAR 120ED 900MM FROM MYAKKA STATE PARK.

“Over the years, thousands of people have probably looked through my telescopes, and the reaction you get, adult or child, is always worth it,” McDonough said. “But I’ll never forget this time, this woman who must have been 80 looked at Saturn through my eyepiece. For a minute, this woman was back to being a 10-year-old. The real excitement was so pure that there’s no way to describe it.

Talking telescopes takes place every alternate Saturday in the lobby of the Bishop Museum’s Planetarium Astronomy Facility (201 10th St. W, Bradenton). Enjoy learning how to set up and use a telescope through 1: 1 demonstrations with expert Ed McDonough. Célestron showroom: Did you know that Bishop’s Gift Shop is one of only two Celestron telescope showrooms in Florida? Local shopping allows you to look before you buy and this also supports the Museum.

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