Tag Archives: Chuck Higgins

Remembering The Godfather Of Solar Astronomy, Robert “Barlow Bob” Godfrey

The field of amateur astronomy hosts many different personalities. Some love to know anything and everything about astronomy equipment. Some prefer the study of astronomy through the ages. Some enjoy the banter around a large scope with others at midnight. Some enjoy the quiet solitude of a small dome or open field. Still others enjoy setting their equipment up in the middle of the chaos of a large group of people to show them the sights. Some take their love of outreach well past the observing field, taking it upon themselves to educate others by taking what they know (or don’t yet know) and making it accessible to the larger audience of amateurs and non-observers alike.

Amateur astronomy has seen a few key players pass this year, starting with John Dobson this past January and the noted comet hunter Bill Bradfield just a week ago. Both are noteworthy in their passing in that, amongst a large, large number of astro-hobbyists, their names are held in higher esteem because of their unique contributions to amateur astronomy. In the case of Bill Bradfield, he singly was responsible for finding 18 comets that bear his name, making him responsible for helping map part of the contents of our own Solar System from his home in Australia (reportedly taking 3500 hours to do so). In the case of John Dobson, he not only synthesized many great ideas in scope building with his own to produce the class of telescope that bears his name, but he also made it part of his life’s work to bring the distant heavens to anyone and everyone through his founding of what we call today “sidewalk astronomy.”

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Barlow Bob at the center of the 2014 NEAF Solar Star Party. Click for a larger view.

The CNY amateur astronomy community learned of the passing of Barlow Bob on June 13th through an email from Chuck Higgins of MVAS. I suspect most people in the community didn’t even know his real name was Robert Godfrey until the announcement of his passing. The announcement of his passing had much farther to go, as the list of people and clubs that Barlow Bob had made better through his own outreach is as large as his many contributions to solar astronomy. For the record, below is a snippet of his contributions to the CNY astronomy community generally and to me specifically.

The Postman And Telephone Operator of Northeast Astronomy

I have a decent handle on all of the astronomy clubs in the Northeast thanks to Barlow Bob’s habit of forwarding newsletters and email announcements around to his email list. Those who’ve not edited a club newsletter do not know how much this simple gesture was appreciated! In my 2008 reboot of the Syracuse Astronomical Society newsletter the Astronomical Chronicle, the biggest problem facing its monthly continuation was new content. Not only did Barlow Bob provide a steady stream of articles for “Barlow Bob’s Corner,” but I learned about several free sources of space science news from these other newsletters (the NASA News Feed and the NASA Space Place being chief among them – still sources of news and updates freely available to all). He saved myself, and the SAS, several months of organizing content and finding relevant material. Those newsletters remain available in PDF format on the SAS website, many peppered with varied hot topics in solar astronomy that Barlow Bob chose to write about for “Barlow Bob’s Corner.”

As part of his aggregative exploits, amateur astronomers in his email loop were also treated to a yearly events calendar of nearly all of the East Coast star parties and special events. His and Chuck Higgins’ 2014 Events Calendar makes up the majority of the non-celestial phenomena listed in CNYO’s current calendar.

I also had the pleasure of being one of the recipients of his many (many!) phone calls as a regular of his “astro-rounds” call list, during which I learned early on to have a pen and paper ready for all of the companies to check out and solar projects to search for. Barlow Bob loved being on the edge of solar observing technology, both in pure observational astronomy and in solar spectroscopy (his Solar Spectroscopy History article is among the most concise stories of the history of the field). A number of his voice messages lasted little more than 15 seconds, but provided enough detail for a requisite google search and email exchange after.

“You keep writing them, I’ll keep publishing them.”

Barlow Bob was, by all metrics, a prolific writer on the topic of solar astronomy. My Barlow Bob CD contains at least 50 full articles along with pictures, equipment reviews, and society newsletters including his articles. Barlow Bob took great pleasure equally in his own understanding some aspect of solar astronomy and his committing that understanding to keyboard and computer screen for others. While many amateur astronomers delight in knowing something well enough to be able to talk about it with authority, precious few in the community actually take the next step and distill all they know into something others far beyond their immediate sphere can appreciate. Even those who’ve never been to NEAF likely knew of Barlow Bob through his writings. Along with his founding of the NEAF Solar Star Party, his many articles will serve as his lasting contribution to the field. We will continue to include Barlow Bob’s articles on the CNYO website and we hope that other societies will consider doing the same. Some of those articles are available on his dedicated webpage at NEAF Solar, http://www.neafsolar.com/barlowbob.html.

The Bob-o-Scope Comes To Syracuse

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Barlow Bob and “the works” at Darling Hill Observatory. Click for a larger view.

While Syracuse only managed to have one solar session hosted by Barlow Bob, that one session provided a number of lasting memories. After a few months of planning around available weekends and Barlow Bob’s own vacation schedule, we finally settled on the early afternoon of 30 July 2011 for a solar session (with a lecture by CNY’s own Bob Piekiel to follow that evening, making for one of the better amateur astronomy weekends in Syracuse) at Darling Hill Observatory, home of the Syracuse Astronomical Society.

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Very likely him at Darling Hill Observatory. Click for a larger view.

Our initial plan was for an 11 a.m. set-up and a noon to 3-ish observing session. Saturday morning started a bit earlier than I expected with a phone call at 9:30 a.m. – Barlow Bob, ever ready to be out and about on a clear day, was outside the locked front gate of Darling Hill Observatory. A frantic prep and drive out later, Barlow Bob and I set up and placed his many scopes on the observing grounds to the delight of about 30 attendees. I myself took one look through the Bob-o-Scope and began calling people, telling them “you have to come and see this.” A full day of observing in, Barlow Bob didn’t end up leaving Darling Hill until just before 5 p.m. The hour we took to leisurely pack his station wagon with all of his gear was full of shop talk, people and equipment to be made aware of, and plans on a similar event at some point in the future. That hang and the view through his Bob-o-Scope are two of my favorite memories during my tenure as SAS president.

Barlow Bob and a spectroscopy mini-lecture at Darling Hill Observatory, 30 July 2011.

The Sun, being the excellent, usually accessible target that it is, is ideal for hosting impromptu observing sessions at most any location. Members of CNYO now do as a small group (and with cheaper equipment) what Barlow Bob would do single-handedly – set up and observe “with attitude.”

Not Just NEAF

Barlow Bob is known to many in the community as the founder of the NEAF Solar Star Party and as the author of articles for “Barlow Bob’s Corner.” To those of us with a bent towards public outreach, Barlow Bob is an example of someone who could take some fancy equipment and his own know-how and run a one-host show. Barlow Bob committed a great deal of his own time and talent to doing for our nearest star what those like John Dobson did for far more distant objects. Despite the many, many amateur astronomers in the world today, it’s still a field where a single person can have a strong influence simply by being a perfectly-polished primary mirror that reflects their own love of the field for others to appreciate. Amateur astronomy outreach can learn a lot from Barlow Bob’s example and CNYO will continue in his footsteps of making safe, variously-filtered solar sights available to the public as part of our observing efforts. May we all become a bit more familiar with our nearest star, following in Barlow Bob’s footsteps to observe it “with attitude.”

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“It’s like looking in a mirror!” Barlow Bob and I at Kopernik’s 2013 Astrofest.

* Announcement of his passing on Cloudy Nights: cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/6581115/Main/6578514

* David Eicher’s announcement at astronomy.com: cs.astronomy.com/asy/b/daves-universe/archive/2014/06/16/solar-astronomy-guru-quot-barlow-bob-quot-dies.aspx

* A memorial webpage at forevermissed.com: http://www.forevermissed.com/robert-a-godfrey/

The Barlow Bob and Chuck Higgins Astronomy Events (Festivals And Star Parties) Calendar For 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

I was very happy to find in my inbox last week an email from solar specialist and NEAF Solar Star Party head honcho Barlow Bob containing his (and Chuck Higgins) summarized list of 2014 Astronomy Club Star Parties and assorted events.

The summarized list links are provided courtesy of Barlow Bob and Chuck Higgins as of 13 February 2014 (and new events may be added). If it’s on this side of the Mississippi River and they’ve announced the event already, it’s likely on this list. If something is happening in/near your state, consider making a day trip (or night trip) to see how the many other amateur astronomy clubs in the US celebrate the night sky!

Date

Event

Location


Feb 23 – Mar 2 2014 Winter Star Party Florida Keys, FL

Apr 10 – 11 Northeast Astronomical Imaging Conference 2014 Suffern, NY

Apr 12 – 13 NEAF 2014, NSSP NEAF Solar Star Party Suffern, NY

Apr 24 – 27 Zombie Star Gaze Atlanta, GA

Apr 24 – 27 Delmarva Star Gaze Star Party Tuckahoe State Park, MD

Apr 24 – 27 South Jersey Spring Star Party Belleplain State Forest, NJ

Apr 25 – 26 Spring Stokes Star Party Stokes State Forest, NJ

Jun 25 – 28 Green Banks Star Quest Green Bank, WV

Jun 26 – 29 Cherry Springs Star Party Cherry Springs Park, PA

Jul 9 – 12 ALCON 2014 Atlanta, GA

Jul 23 – 27 Mason Dixon Star Party York County, PA

Jul 24 – 27 Stellafane 2014 Springfield, VT

Jul 25 – 27 RocheStar Fest Ionia, NY

Jul 25 – Aug 3 Rockland Summer Star Party Plainfield, MA

Aug 21 – 24 Hidden Hollow 2014 Green Bank, WV

Aug 22 – 23 The Conjunction 2014 Northfield, MA

Aug 22 – 24 Black Forest Star Party Cherry Springs Park, PA

Aug 22 – 26 Almost Heaven Star Party Spruce Knob, WV

Aug 29 – Sep 1 Arunah Hill Days Cummington, MA

Sep 18 – 21 Fall No-Frills Star Party Tuckahoe State Park, MD

Sep 25 – 29 Acadia Night Sky Festival Bar Harbor, ME

Sep 26 – 28 Connecticut Star Party Ashford, CT

Oct 19 – 26 Peach State Star Gaze Sharon, GA

Nov 17 – 23 Chiefland Fall Star Party Chiefland Astro Village, FL

Oct 24 – 26 Kopernik AstroFest 2014 Vestal, NY

The Barlow Bob and Chuck Higgins Astronomy Events (Festivals And Star Parties) Calendar For 2013

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

I was very happy to find in my inbox last week an email from solar specialist and NEAF Solar Star Party head honcho Barlow Bob containing his (and Chuck Higgins) summarized list of 2013 Astronomy Club Star Parties and assorted events. True to form, I obtained the same list from CNYO’s and New Moon Telescope’s Ryan Goodson early this week after he forwarded it from Barlow Bob. Finally, not a few minutes ago, I received a third copy of the list from Chuck Higgins.

This triplicate (I await yet another copy from another email address) delivery is one of the great things about amateur astronomy – it is, despite the large number of events posted below, a small enough community where important information for fellow amateurs is still passed around from familiar heralds like recopied science letters in old Europe and Colonial America.

The summarized list links are provided courtesy of Barlow Bob and Chuck Higgins as of 18 March 2013 (and new events may be added). If it’s on this side of the Mississippi River and they’ve announced the event already, it’s likely on this list. A PDF of this calendar can be downloaded at: www.arunah.org/barlowbob_calendar_2013.pdf

Date

Event

Location


Feb 24 – Mar 2 2013 Winter Star Party Florida Keys, FL

Mar 7 – 10 Zombie Star Gaze Atlanta, GA

Apr 11 – 14 Delmarva Star Gaze Star Party Tuckahoe State Park, MD

May 2 – 5 South Jersey Spring Star Party Belleplain State Forest, NJ

Apr 12 – 13 Spring Stokes Star Party Stokes State Forest, NJ

Apr 18 – 19 Northeast Astronomical Imaging Conference 2013 Suffern, NY

Apr 20 – 21 NEAF 2013, NSSP NEAF Solar Star Party Suffern, NY

Jun 1 StarConn 2013 Wesleyan University, CT

Jun 6 – 9 Cherry Springs Star Party Cherry Springs Park, PA

Jul 10 – 13 Green Bank Star Quest Green Bank, WV

Jul 10 – 14 Mason Dixon Star Party York County, PA

Jul 12 – 13 The Conjunction 2013 Northfield, MA

Jul 24 – 27 ALCON 2013 Atlanta, GA

Aug 2 – 3 Maine State Star Party Edmunds, ME

Aug 2 – 4 AOS StarFest Savoy, MA

Aug 2 – 11 Rockland Summer Star Party Plainfield, MA

Aug 2 – 11 Savoy Star Party Savoy, MA

Aug 8 – 11 Stellafane 2013 Springfield, VT

Aug 30 – Sep 2 Arunah Hill Days Cummington, MA

Sep 6 – 8 Black Forest Star Party Cherry Springs Park, PA

Sep 6 – 8 Connecticut Star Party Ashford, CT

Sep 6 – 10 Almost Heaven Star Party Spruce Knob, WV

Sep 26 – 30 Acadia Night Sky Festival Bar Harbor, ME

Sep 29 – Oct 6 Peach State Star Gaze Sharon, GA

Oct 4 – Oct 6 Kopernik AstroFest 2013 Vestal, NY

Oct 28 – Nov 3 Chiefland Fall Star Party Chiefland Astro Village, FL