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The Webfooted Astronomer - May 2000


Randy's Ramblings: A Tease of the Teaser

By Randy Johnson, SAS President

SUMMER is coming and for the amateur astronomer it is a time of perennial renewal. How soon will the mountain roads clear of winter's deep snow pack? When can I make my way back to that expansive meadow to commune with the heavens? Who will I see there this year? What will the sky have in store for me?

The discovery of Table Mountain's magic for doing astronomy is one deeply intertwined in the roots of the Seattle Astronomical Society. There are stories and lore that go with the history of amateur astronomy on the mountain that are joyful and full of insight into the character of our club and the individuals who grace or have graced our membership.

Tom Colwell is well known to many in the SAS. One of my very first SAS meetings way back in 1984 or 1985 had Tom leading the SAS in a "chalk talk" of constellations of the night sky. As a neophyte to night time observing, Tom's talk brought life to a subject that I was just beginning to explore. That summer I was able to experience some of this as I lurked in the corner of what has become a Table Mountain Star Party tradition, Tom's planetarium under the stars. A small crowd gathers around Tom at the eastern boundary of the meadow about midnight. The people are seated in their lawn chairs or lying on blankets on their back while he spins a tale based on the ancient story of the night sky. He animates the mythology by tracing out the roles of characters from the stars and constellations, pointing to the stars with a faint beam of light, as the audience plays connect the dots. He shares some observing tricks and tips that will stay with you long after you hear their stories.

In addition to his love for amateur astronomy, Tom has had interesting life experiences as a cowboy, singer, night club entertainer, systems consultant, coach, and father. He's a keen observer and a good listener. He was there when the use of Table Mountain as an astronomical observing site became popular with amateur astronomers from western Washington. He knows and believes in the magic of Table Mountain. I urge you to join us on May 17 for the monthly SAS meeting as Tom Colwell presents, "A Table Mountain Tease."

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