For a modest investment, you too can surf the stars from your own backyard. Ryan Goodwin of Impact Home Technology does just that and, here, takes Coastal Style along for the ride
When Ryan Goodwin’s wife, Adele, got him a $200 telescope as a gift, neither of them realized it would change his life forever. Ryan was bitten by the astronomy bug almost immediately. Today, some 20 years later, the owner of Impact Home Technology would be the first to tell you that he surfs among the stars on a regular basis.
“I feel like my passion for it has only grown over the years,” Goodwin shared. “During the winter months, when the viewing opportunities are optimal, I’m out there probably five nights a week.”
That first telescope was a modest 4” Meade “reflector”— an optical telescope that uses one or more curved mirrors to form images from reflected light. Goodwin has gone high-tech since then, having upgraded his equipment several times. Nowadays, Ryan also shoots the stars, getting some of his most powerful astrophotography when two telescopes are used in tandem to track and capture images more accurately (known as piggybacking). On average, he will take in excess of 30 long-exposure photos, which are combined through software to create one majestic image showcasing incredible celestial details. One is a 4” refractor telescope, which uses lenses, rather than mirrors, to form images. With the digital “guide” camera he’s attached to it, the telescope offers a wide view and is able to track objects with greater accuracy and compensate for the drift engendered by the Earth’s rotation and other forms
The other telescope is a high-powered 12” Schmidt–Cassegrain, which renders great close-up detail over long distances. The mount/tripod has “GoTo” GPS capability, meaning it is computerized and can therefore locate and track objects by simply inputting the name of the object sought into the associated software program. When Ryan connects his laptop to his piggyback setup, he can observe the images from both telescopes simultaneously, and with the DSLR camera he’s linked to the Schmidt, he can produce breathtaking images of stars, planets, nebulae, star clusters and even galaxies. Goodwin points out that like any hobby, the sky’s the limit when it comes to financial investment, but for just a few hundred dollars, anyone can spend their evenings gleefully strolling the cosmos.
About three years ago, Goodwin was at Assateague Island, conducting what astronomy buffs call an outreach, in which astronomers share their love of the cosmos with the public through their knowledge and equipment. He was approached during the event by a member of the Sussex Astronomy Club of Milton, Del., who suggested he join their club. Since then, he’s linked up with Delmarva Space Sciences Foundation (DSSF), also based in Milton. Dedicated exclusively to community outreach, the DSSF holds monthly events year-round from Rehoboth Beach to Wallops Island for people who want to learn more about astronomy and stargaze through sophisticated observation equipment.
“At any given event, we set up anywhere from four to 12 viewing stations at which people can observe, each with a telescope trained on a different celestial body or event,” said Goodwin. “And the best thing is, all the events are free to the public. We just want to raise awareness and share the indescribable beauty and spectacle of what’s out there.”
The outreach events have proved a hit with the community, the DSSF typically drawing between 400 and 700 people at each event. During the warm-weather months, the events are held at Chincoteague, in affiliation with NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, and just a few miles down the road at the NASA Wallops Visitors Center during the winter.
“The Wallops Visitors Center is such an incredible facility,” Goodwin said. “In addition to giving talks, we show videos and set up PowerPoint presentations. Some members even bring in meteorites. We host people of all ages and backgrounds, and they all enjoy the events equally.”
Attendees may expect to view stirring images of not only stars and planets but also open and globular star clusters — even galaxies and a variety of nebulae on especially clear evenings.
Those interested in attending an outreach event may contact the DSSF by going online to DelmarvaSpace.org.
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