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|The path of Comet 46P/Wirtanen during the time when it will be at its brightest is shown in this star chart. Although the size and shape of Wirtanen is shown correctly, the brightness of the comet is not. It will appear more like a greyish cotton ball and without the cyan color. Color only becomes apparent with longer exposures taken though a camera. Use binoculars to see Wirtanen because of its large size and faintness. Gary A. Becker map using Software Bisque’s The Sky.|
|The Great Summer Triangle is setting as the Winter Triangle rises. View the Great Summer Triangle right after dark when it is higher in the western sky. Likewise, the Winter Triangle can be better seen around midnight in the southeast during December. Gary A. Becker map using Software Bisque’s The Sky.|
I wanted to extend my congratulations to Mr. Lee Butz, chairman of the board of Alvin H. Butz, Inc., for his successful efforts to bring life back into the future reopening of the Allentown School District Planetarium. During 17 of my 38 years teaching in the planetarium, the Board of School Directors instructed me to raise the necessary funding to operate the facility or it would be closed. During those nearly two decades, I was able to accrue $170,000 from evening programming and public donations, all of it without District reimbursement for my time. Lee raised over a quarter of a million dollars in just six weeks. I have to say that I’m just a little envious of his abilities, but both of us managed to keep the stars shining for the students in Allentown, for me in the past, for Lee and his friends, a brighter future for ASD pupils with the Learning Dome.
However, there is a warning that comes in tandem with this adulation and Lee Butz seem to understand this. The excitement that will be a part of the new Learning Dome will eventually fade, and along with it the funding to keep it operational, so money must be put aside to keep the program viable for future generations. I salute that effort.
When the ASD Planetarium opened its doors in the fall of 1965 under the very capable leadership of Robert (Mike) Brown, the community excitement was so great that a second person, Richard Garger, was hired the following year. When Garger moved into administration in 1972, I came on board as the assistant director, becoming director in 1978 when Mike Brown became an administrator at Allen High School. John Peterson then became the assistant director. By 1979 the District was already putting pressure on the planetarium even though John and I showed administration a continued positive growth in program usage was occurring. After 1980, when John Peterson was released from service, it became one struggle after another as district officials slowly tried to erode the program until the only recourse that was afforded to me by the school board in 1993 was to raise the necessary operating expenses to keep the program sustainable. I did just that, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. It was an incredibly satisfying experience to be released from the purse strings of the District and to become independent of the many rules that guide a large public organization. The planetarium continued to flourish due to hard work on my part and an incredibly supportive public, including The Morning Call, that came to my rescue whenever disaster threatened. Time and time again, it was truly a community effort that saved the ASD Planetarium, and I will always be grateful for that unwavering support. I had a wonderful career teaching the subject that I loved in Allentown and continue to live that dream today as an astronomy educator at Moravian College.
However, less self-adulation… I need to return to Mr. Lee Butz. During the darkest days of my teaching career, when the District was aggressively trying to close the planetarium, a letter arrived from Alvin H. Butz, Inc. It was on a Friday as I recall. Inside was an unsolicited note of encouragement and a check for $500 from Mr. Butz. In subsequent conversations, Lee said that if I ever needed financial support to keep the planetarium operational, he would get his “buddies” together to help. I pledged to myself that I would never let that happen, and I’m proud to say that it never did, but it was a wonderful safety net to have that extra support. When I told Lee about this story in early November, he had no recollection of the donation or of the inspiration that he had provided to me so long ago. I was one of so many, but to me it was a lifesaver, similar to the “Starfish in the Sea” parable. I was the starfish washed up along the shore, and Lee helped to threw me back into the ocean to survive. Now he and his friends have done the same for this wonderful Allentown School District program. Thank you, Lee Butz and friends for performing this small miracle which will benefit so many.
|The ASD Planetarium on the last day of school for teachers in 2005. Volunteering for the National Park Service in Bryce Canyon, Utah as a Night Sky Interpreter lay ahead for that summer. Gary A. Becker composite image.|