Visit the Library, See the Stars

By Carla Charter

LITTLETON, N.H.- Libraries are known for providing many resources to the towns they serve. From books, to DVD’s to museum passes, libraries offer much to their communities. Many libraries in New Hampshire including the Littleton Public Library also offer their patrons a way to view the stars. “Our telescope is part of a program sponsored by the NH Astronomical Society, it is by far our neatest item that we lend out,” said Meagan Carr, Director of the Littleton Public Library.

“We’ve had our telescope since 2013.  It checks out for one week at a time and comes with all the information you need to use it effectively. They are a really simple and easy to use model and there’s pretty much no set up except pointing where you want to look at.  The telescope is easy to use with nothing to assemble. It has a wooden base, not the usual spindly tripod legs. What you can see is somewhat dependent upon where you are– the darker the location/the further away from town the better the clarity.”

The New Hampshire Astronomical Society started placing telescopes and educational materials in selected libraries in New Hampshire beginning in December 2008 with a goal to help foster scientific literacy, stimulate an interest in astronomy, and provide people who have never looked through a telescope the chance to experience the excitement that comes from discovery, according to the society.  The program began with the placement of two telescopes in 2008 followed by ten in 2009 and a further four in the first half of 2010, with the program now growing beyond the society’s own expectations. The society states that placing the telescopes in local public libraries instead of just schools, allows greater general access to the telescopes since they can be put into circulation just like a book.

Where applicable, a local Club member acts as a foster parent to the telescopes, periodically cleaning and adjusting the telescope, and acting as a local astronomical resource to the library patrons.

The telescope provided to the libraries is the Orion StarBlast 4.5-inch Astronomical Telescope, which also comes with a zoom eye piece and supportive material. The society has re-written the instruction manual and provides a laminated, spiral-bound 4 by 6 inch copy with each telescope.  The telescope has a relatively large optical tube, according to the Society which means that the Moon and deep sky objects will show far more detail than one could see with the common “beginners” telescopes. It also has a large field of view that allowing the object to stay in the eyepiece longer.

Funding for the telescopes has come from a variety of sources including the society’s general budget, donations from members, donations from the public through donations at Skywatches, and library patrons interested in giving something to their communities.

Each participating library typically has a waiting list for their telescopes, the society stated and most have set up book displays with the telescope as a centerpiece. The New Hampshire Astronomical Society’s Library Telescope Program is the recipient of the Out-of-this-World Award from Astronomy Magazine for Outstanding Public Programming. For more information on the New Hampshire Astronomy Society’s Telescope Program and a complete list of New Hampshire Libraries participating visit  http://nhastro.com/ltp.php