- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

POTTERVILLE, Mich. (AP) - From a patch of land about 200 feet north of the beach at Fox Memorial Park in Potterville, the surface of the sun, with its solar flares the size of planets, could be seen safely and clearly.

That’s exactly what Jason Blaschka, of Portland, and Kevin Keyes, of Lansing, were there to do, according to the Lansing State Journal (https://on.lsj.com/1QXM5Y8 ).

They’re among the volunteers who help maintain and run the Fox Park Public Observatory, which Blaschka said is among the largest amateur, public observatories in the country. The observatory has three telescopes fixed to the ground with other smaller ones set up on tripods.

From the observatory, on a clear night, you can see some 40 million light-years away and catch glimpses of M65, a spiral galaxy that’s part of the constellation Leo.

Both Blaschka and Keyes have been working with the observatory for about 10 years, but have been interested astronomy for much longer.

When Blaschka was in the third or fourth grade, his class was told to go the library and get a nonfiction book.

“I just grabbed one with Saturn on the cover,” he said. “I was hooked.”

Blaschka bought his first good telescope when he was 15, he said, after taking a loan from his parents.

He was there for one of the observatory’s solar observing days, when special lenses are attached to telescopes allowing viewers to safely see the sun.

A few people showed up, including 87-year-old Eugene Lapham, of Dimondale, and Karl Dersch, of Okemos, who is working with Blaschka to potentially repair one of the telescopes and brought his two daughters.

The availability and affordability of quality cameras from Canon or Nikon have increased interest in astronomy. Both Blaschka and Keyes have taken their own photos, which rival the quality taken by NASA satellites in the early 1990s.

A single photograph might take 10 to 12 hours to complete and involve long exposure photography and some work at a computer.

“This year has been so fun,” Keyes said, adding that he’s spent less time at the computer working on pictures and more time at the observatory.

“I’ve been showing the sky to folks.”

And while some prefer to look closely at the craters on the moon, Blaschka said that he prefers the far away stars, planets and galaxies that populate space.

“I hate the moon,” he said jokingly. “It gets in the way.”

The next public night viewing is set for Friday and Saturday.


Information from: Lansing State Journal, https://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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