Starry Starry Nights

Live the astronomer's dream

Starry Starry Nights is about living the astronomer's dream, while building the largest of amateur telescopes, observing from dark skies around the world, and ending up with a home observatory containing a 42" telescope.


Tom and Jeannie Clark lived at the Chiefland Astronomy Village for 14 years, attended over 40 major star parties, and built one of the finest observing fields in the USA.


If you would like to learn more about living your own astronomy dream, read Starry Starry Nights. You'll be inspired!


 

I first read Leslie Peltier's Starlight Nights in 1984. I read it again in August of 2000, and yet again in August of 2010. Perhaps this easy-to-read book is my favorite astronomy book of all time. I'm not sure why, as Peltier and I have very little in common, other than the fact that I liked the way he told the story about his experiences in astronomy. While we both were born in Ohio, Peltier loved his native state and lived all of his life there, other than one four-month long trip through the southwest on his honeymoon. Jeannie and I ran away from Ohio in 1972, preferring a place with better skies and climate.


Peltier wrote Starlight Nights when he was 65 years old, and he died four years before I took up the hobby, but his book continues to embed in new astronomers his love of the night sky and observing. As I was re-reading the book, last summer while we were motorhoming through America's far west, I started thinking that his book was now 45 years old, and is definitely a bit out-of-date. Perhaps it was time for someone to write a modern day version. The more I thought about this, the more I liked the idea, and finally realized that I was going to write it.


While I certainly don't consider myself to have his excellent writing skills, I certainly far surpassed Leslie with my telescope making, and easily surpassed what he was able to view in his telescopes. His largest telescope was a 12" that he spent his last few years observing with, while our first telescope was a 13", and we quickly rose through the aperture fever years to the point where my wife Jeannie and I seldom view with telescopes smaller than a 24", and our home observatory has held a 42" since 2003.

"What a lovely book, well-written by someone who knows and loves his subject. It's inspiring and deserves a large audience. My only criticism is that it's too short, I could easily have read another 1000 pages of Tom's anecdotes. The lifestyle of touring the USA, going to the main star parties and the National Parks and doing dark-sky astronomy with a good-sized dob is the stuff dreams are made of, including mine."   Faith J

Above left shows our 16" set up in the Arizona desert, far from civilization.


Above right is the 16" set up at the visitor's center at Bryce Canyon,  helping to  introduce  a couple hundred campers to the world of astronomy.


Left is our 16 and 24" at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This National Park campground was at 8400' and the views were  indescribable.


The 16" was built as a travel scope to fit into a storage bay of our motorhome. It folds up to a small package to fit into a storage bay of our motorhome. It only weighs 68 pounds.

Left: An early 25" at the Winter Star Party in '89.


Center: Our first 36" at Chiefland in 1993.


Right: Our first 36" was known as the Yard Scope. Here shown at the Winter Star Party in 1994.


While there are literally hundreds of astronomy textbooks, very few cover what the real joy of being an amateur astronomer.…


Right: Al Nagler at the eyepiece of our old 25" at Ayer's Rock, Australia, in 1993.


We have been fortunate to have built many large Dobsonians over the last 30 years, and to have been able to use them from dark skies around the world.


Tom and Mike Lockwood in 2010 in the Chiefland Dome with the 42". Mike refigured the mirror during our move to New Mexico in 2012.