The program’s name comes from the experience of one of our members: He and his son built a telescope and this struck a “spark” of interest that contributed to the son’s ultimately graduating with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics.
Our goal is to strike other sparks of interest in Sonoma County students. During the 28 years of the program we have awarded 251 6-inch reflector telescopes to Sonoma County students.
Winners automatically become members of SCAS Young Astronomers (YAs) for a full year, receive our monthly newsletter Sonoma Skies and the Astronomical League's quarterly publication, Reflector. YAs are encouraged to join us for stargazing events and SCAS meetings.
You or your organization may sponsor a telescope and participate in this worthwhile program. The cost to sponsor a “Striking Sparks” telescope is $250. An engraved sponsor plaque is attached to each telescope. Contact Larry McCune, Striking Sparks Coordinator, at: email@example.com
The photo at top shows the 2013 winners who received their new telescopes at the March 13 Striking Sparks Awards Ceremony. The Proctor Terrace meeting room was full of excitement when we celebrated the awarding of five Striking Sparks telescopes to deserving students who had entered the 2013 essay contest. This is the 28th year of the STRIKING SPARKS program where 251 telescopes have been awarded to Sonoma County students.
The winners were accompanied by some very supportive teachers that parents that shared the festivities. The President gave a little history of how the program began in Bob Ferguson’s basement workshop where telescopes were fabricated to award to students as a way to stimulate an interest in science and astronomy. A cake decorated with astronomical images was served after the President’s presentation on the telescope, accessories and the safety concern of not pointing the telescope at the sun. June Ferguson served the cake doing her best to meet requests for a slice of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars or the Moon.
Larry McCune The telescope winners were assembled on the stage for their awards followed by teachers, sponsors and mentors for pictures with the telescopes. We quickly reassembled outside with the night sky cooperating to yield views of the Moon, Orion Nebula, and Jupiter with its observable moons and some constellations.
We want to connect the winners with some school astronomy nights and visits to the Robert Ferguson Observatory so they have an opportunity to use their telescopes. Most of the telescope winners attended the Young Astronomers meeting at Dunham Elementary school on Friday, March 15th where they tuned up their telescopes and observed the night sky including Comet PAN-STARRS. Teacher, Siobhan Wilde, and Len Nelson have organized an excellent continuation of learning opportunities to share with the Young Astronomers.
This year’s sponsors that enable SCAS to continue the program are: Siobhan & Steve Wilde, Lynn Anderson & Leo Bleier, Rob Koslowsky, AANC and the Hejtmanek family. We also want to thank Orion Telescope and Binoculars of Cupertino for providing the affordable telescopes. We look forward to continuing Striking Sparks with next year’s sponsors.
—Larry McCune, Striking Sparks Coordinator
We really appreciate the role teachers have played by nominating students, evaluating their essays and joining us at this event. We could not do the program without teacher support.