Frank Beretz, Jr. Patron; H. Ringermacher owner/operator
by Judy Keating
In mid 2006 Harry was offered an opportunity to purchase a telescope from the estate of a colleague along with a plethora of paraphernalia including lens, books, and other equipment. At the time we were very busy planning Mensa Colloquium 2006:Revolution in Cosmology which was to take place in October of that year. After thinking it over and realizing that if he did not like and use the telescope he could resell it, probably for more than his colleague had asked, and that if he did not take advantage of this offer he would one day regret it.He said he would buy the telescope and periphery but would have to wait until after the colloquium to take possession. The adventure begins. Additionally he decided to downsize his existing telescope inventory by one and gave the Brookstone component to his daughter and her husband. He took delivery of the telescope, a Meade LX200 10” Schmidt-Cassegrain and its accompaniments. On clear nights he would bring it out to the deck of the house to observe. This led to the idea of trying astrophotography and he constructed a mounting tubular device to attach the Cannon Powershot he already had to the eyepiece.
There were drawbacks to these efforts. The seemingly solid deck shook sufficiently to impact the photographs, even if only our 40 pound dog were to walk near, and the house only has a view of the southeastern sky as it is in a notch in a hill with tall trees behind and on two sides. He was discussing these issues with his good ‘ol buddy Frank who found the photos delightful.
Frank Beretz is not your typical farmer. He raises Old English Baby Doll Sheep, keeps numerous farm animals and pets, is a John Deere aficionado and restorer, and is a bit of a wild man as evidenced by this photo of him sledding down our driveway.
In a moment of perhaps clouded judgment he offered to let Harry construct a concrete pad in his back yard and install an observatory.
And so the fun began…..
Into this nine foot by nine foot by eight inch slab a pier was mounted and later a Sky Shed POD dome was purchased, assembled, and bolted down.
On clear nights Harry looks forward to taking photos. He’s discovered that when the temperature goes below ten degrees the electronics slow down to be unusable so the colder night and nights with bad seeing conditions are out. He enjoys using Clear Dark Sky forecasts to see if the weather will cooperate and the software program Starry Night to find targets. He and Frank have worked out a system of lights, green and red, to indicate when photography is taking place and Frank accommodates him by keeping the light pollution from his house down. He also uses an astro-enhanced Canon 40D camera and PHD guiding software in the observatory. There is a second spotting scope mounted on the Meade and targets with a wide field of view can be captured with this telescope, it is a Williams Optics 66mm Zenithstar. As with most astrophotography he takes a series of pictures and later “stacks” them to bring distant, faint light into view. Filters can be used but for the most part the colors in these photographs are the colors of nature.