Espyville residents donate telescope to Edinboro University

Category:  Opinions
Monday, January 27th, 2020 at 2:18 PM
Espyville residents donate telescope to Edinboro University by Contributing Writer | Roger Sargent
Olivia Wyman and Jacob Salis pose with the donated telescope. | Contributed Photo

Planetarium student assistant Jacob Salis has been around long enough to know that when a call comes in about a telescope, the person on the other end is usually wanting to talk about the cheap department store telescope they're struggling with. However, when he picked up the phone on Nov. 6, he soon realized this caller was different.

Nestled near Pymatuning Lake lies the village of Espyville, surrounded by rural areas of dark skies perfect for astronomy. That's where lifelong amateur astronomer Bob Potts and his wife, Virginia, settled down from Pittsburgh after retiring. That's also where Bob Potts spent many hours studying the night sky, much of that time with his 12-inch diameter Meade Starfinder telescope. Described by his wife of nearly 63 years as an intelligent and thoughtful man interested in everything, astronomy was at the top of his list of many hobbies.

Due to health issues the past several years, his telescope had sat in the garage, its 12-inch eye blinded by inactivity despite it's owner still being as passionate about astronomy as ever. Sadly, Bob Potts died on Oct. 28, but his love of the stars will live on through the generous donation of his prized telescope to Edinboro University.

After arriving in Cooper Hall on Nov. 13, longtime planetarium director Dr. David Hurd and his students cleaned up the gift, made some minor adjustments, tested it, and hauled it up to the third floor observatory. This is operated by the chair of the physics department, Dr. Richard Lloyd, along with Dr. Sheldon Bailey and volunteer Mr. Dan Holler.

Potts' telescope is known as a Newtonian after its inventor, Isaac Newton. It's also labeled a Dobsonian after John Dobson, who invented the mount. If large enough, this combination is affectionately called a "light bucket," and the light bucket donated by the Potts is destined to be used by thousands of astronomical observers in future decades. After every public planetarium show on the ground level of Cooper Hall, guests trek up to the third floor and are introduced to EU's observatory. If it's not cloudy, attendees can marvel at the night sky under the direction of planetarium and observatory staff. These opportunities come usually once a week and now, thanks to last week's donation, observers have a new eye to turn to the sky, second only in size to the telescope housed inside the white dome that you can see from much of campus, atop Cooper.

So, if you've never looked through a telescope before, especially a large diameter one, take the opportunity by coming up to the observatory after attending one of Hurd's high energy, entertaining and educational planetarium shows. (You'll see why they've earned him and EUP national recognition.)

On the observatory deck you will witness the wonders of the universe, thanks in part to the generosity of Bob and Virginia Potts. And if you happen to notice an asterism of stars that is shaped like a smile, you can imagine that Bob had something to do with it, happy that his cherished donation will delight observers at Edinboro University for generations.

Find the planetarium schedule, here.

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