Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Message

On February 22 of this year, I posted an entry in this blog asking for help to save the observatory of my beloved astronomy club, Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Last December, we were sent an eviction notice by Union County College, where our observatory is located. This is a very belated thank you to all those people who took the time to call and write to the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Trustees of Union County College asking to save Sperry Observatory, which has been on the site for over 40 years. We were blessed with an outpouring of support from the public and the media, which ended up making a real difference. We were especially blessed by the support of State Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, who publicly stood up and spoke on behalf of our observatory.

During the spring, negotiations with the college administration were re-opened, and a new two-year agreement with the college was reached, granting us a reprieve. The announcement of the agreement can be read here: http://www.asterism.org/ . Click on "Special Notices."

Writing only as an individual, not representing anyone but myself, I want to thank everyone who took action on behalf of our club and our observatory. That little building has been like a second home to me for over three years. Thanks to your efforts, we can continue to share our love of astronomy and the beauty of the universe with the public from our beloved home of more than four decades.

On a similar note, I want to thank the many individuals--lay people, amateur astronomers, and professional astronomers--who have not only stood by planet Pluto, but have given me moral support on several occasions when I received some very nasty emails by a few meanspirited people opposed to my advocating for Pluto. Those who sent these messages, which were filled with personal attacks and not legitimate arguments DO NOT represent the majority of astronomers or lay people who support the IAU decision. I have had many friendly, respectful conversations with those on the "other side" of this debate, including the late Dr. Brian Marsden, who died too young this month and will most certainly be missed. How sad that he won't be here to see the images from Dawn and New Horizons, which certainly would have been of tremendous interest to him.

This is also an appropriate time to make an announcement concerning my book The Little Planet That Would Not Die: Pluto's Story. Yes, the book is still coming, but unfortunately, not by the end of 2010, as I had hoped for so much. In past entries, I have reported that I am taking classes in astronomy at Swinburne University with the goal of obtaining a Graduate Certificate of Science in Astronomy. These classes have been rewarding but also extremely challenging--challenging to the point that I realized I could not adequately complete the classwork and at the same time do justice to a project as important as a book about Pluto. The book is a work in progress, but with the last Swinburne class assignment, a research project, due on December 4, that progress has had to be put on hold.

Once that project is submitted, I will be back at work on the book full speed ahead. I will be taking a break after four classes at Swinburne with the goal of resuming studies toward the Masters in Astronomy after the book is completed, published, and promoted, hopefully with a book tour.

Also coming after the classwork is done will be the promised review of the DVD "Naming Pluto" and a book review of Pluto: Sentinel of the Outer Solar System by Dr. Barrie W. Jones.

Here's wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate and a big thank you to all of Pluto's loyal fans!

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