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Behind the telescope


2,000 light years from Henrietta

When I was a kid, I thought Henrietta was the final frontier. That's the way it seemed when we made the annual trek to the Monroe County Fair across no less than three town lines. Then one day, some guys landed on the moon and Henrietta lost its luster.

All these years later, space still has the same gee-whiz appeal for kids and adults. Who really knows what's up there?

The Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Science does. Every Saturday evening through the end of October, volunteers will host free public telescope viewings at the Strasenburgh Planetarium, 657 East Avenue, from approximately 8 to 10:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Steve Fentress, the planetarium's director, says, "The telescope's main mirror is 12 1/2" across. That's a very good size for this location. The people running it really know telescopes well. They offer helpful advice about how to find things in the sky."

If you're looking for the dark side of the moon, forget it. This isn't the Pink Floyd Laser Light Show of your misspent youth. On June 24, the main attraction will be Jupiter and assorted constellations.

Viewing will get better as the night goes on. Fentress adds, "If coming late is inconvenient, July, August and September offer great viewing opportunities, too. It gets dark earlier, and the weather's often clearer."

Before heading to the planetarium, call the info line at 271-4552 ext. 411 after 7:30 p.m. to confirm that the telescope is open. This is Western New York. Clouds happen.

Once you arrive, head to the back of the planetarium and climb 60 stairs to the observation deck. Dress warmly. It's not as cold as a Martian winter up there, but when the wind kicks up, it gets a little chilly.

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  • Beautiful effort

    We planted this peony in front of the house a few years back. No one knew for certain what color it would be or its future size, so we stuck it in the ground and watched it grow.