As a child, Jeff Garland's passion for astronomy was sparked as he watched meteor showers from his family's Pine Log farm.
"It has always been an interest of mine. My mom used to bring us out in the pasture to see the meteor showers," said Garland about the December tradition, which he called "the coldest night of the year.
"The first scope I ever got was made out of tin, but I saw the moon with it and stared at it for days," he said about the Christmas present he received at 15.
"Overall, I like deep space targets, but I love telescope making. It's not hard to do. There are just two or three things you need to know. It's basic division. They can range from dirt cheap to expensive, depending on the quality of the lenses and how much work people are willing to do themselves. I typically scrap for items, like making tubes from sewer pipes or PVC and mounts built out of wood."In addition to viewing the night sky, members also participate in community outreach presentations to groups like school students and church congregations. Saturday, they will provide assistance during the National Astronomy Day Celebration on the grounds of the Weinman Mineral Museum. From noon to 5 p.m., about 15 members will set up nearly 25 telescopes with filters for participants to explore sunspots and solar flares. They also will share their knowledge of astronomy and telescopes.
The program will continue from 7:30 to 10 p.m., with the public viewing the night sky. Depending on weather conditions and light pollution, Saturn and the moon will be the main highlights. Describing it as a relaxed gathering, Garland said participants can drop by throughout the sessions and are encouraged to approach Northwest Georgia Astronomical Association members with questions.Drawing about 85 individuals last year, the event is free with regular admission to the Weinman -- $4 for adults, $3.50 for ages 55 and older and $3 for ages 6 to 11. Children younger than 6 are admitted free of charge.
For more information about the astronomy event, contact the Weinman at 770-386-0576. To inquire about the Northwest Georgia Astronomical Association, visit www.nwgaa.org or e-mail email@example.com.