By MARGARET L.
enthusiast Larry Silvestri, of Michigan City, took advantage of unusually
clear skies Thursday evening to set up his 12 inch Newtonian reflecting
telescope at the Indiana Dunes State Park.
“This may be one of
the few chances left to have a really good view,” Silvestri said, “street
lights here will ruin it,” he said of the current plans by the DNR and
Pavilion Partners to build a banquet center at the beach.
building lights, and increased vehicle headlights will create what is known
as a light dome.
“Light travels in
all directions,” Silvestri explained. “Up, down, sideways.”
Since last night
was unusually clear and calm; with little wind, and low particulate matter
in the air; it made for great viewing, so Silvestri posted to friends on
Facebook (and those friends shared) that he would be setting up his
telescope in the IDSP parking lot for anyone to catch a view, and hoping
they’d see what he sees--the irreplaceable value of the natural night.
telephone technician, is a graduate of the University of Illinois, with a
degree in math and computer science. In his free time he builds telescopes.
“I’ve been building telescopes since I was about 14 years old,” he said.
The telescope he
was using Thursday weighs over 200 pounds and features a gravity balanced
equatorial mount with a hand built frame.
What one can see
through it is wondrous--what look like stripes on Jupiter, the bright side
of Venus, the exquisite details of the cratered surface of the crescent
moon. Silvestri also trained the telescope on the Orion Nebula, and the
Hercules Star Cluster.
joined by fellow astronomy bug Ed Pokorny, also of Michigan City, who
brought star gazing binoculars. Pokorny’s instrument also provided fabulous
views of the night sky, and of one thing at the horizon line too, the city
of Chicago, recently named the biggest, brightest, light dome on the planet.
As the night sky darkened, the light dome became visible.
That’s one of the
things that makes the Dunes State Park so special, said Silvestri. It’s a
little pocket of darkness, fairly close to a huge light pollution source.
“The next closest
spot like this is over an hour away,” he said, “at Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife
Refuge.” And that location isn’t open all year round, he added.
Jade Starmapper of
the Challenger Learning Center, (aka Sue Petersen, of Chesterton), brought
her son Trevor out for the star gazing, and also expressed hopes that the
development proposed at the dunes can be stopped. “The stars belong to
everyone,” she said, as curious people stopped their cars and joined the
gathering to take a peek.
“The State Park
brags about the night sky visibility,’” said Starmapper, “we need to be sure
we don’t lose that.”
Walt Rearick, of
Chesterton, was part of the crowd. He said the DNR approved plans to build
on the beach are “appalling.” People come for the quiet, the dunes, the
birds, the sunsets, the night sky. “This is worth protecting,” he said,
making the point that if construction and additional lighting are allowed,
stargazing at the State Park will be lost.
Sylvestri said that
recently the town of Beverly Shores completed a Dark Skies Initiative, one
of only eight cities worldwide so far to do so. The town undertook the
effort to protect the nearby Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National
Lakeshore from light pollution.
Sylvestri said, is that now that the town has reduced their light footprint,
the State Park poses a threat to their dark sky.