Visitors enjoy night sky at Sola Fide

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 13, 2002

One weekend a year, amateur astronomers come to the Sola Fide Observatory for the Star Party to look at the stars, compare telescopes and catch up.

A group has been coming for years, some even for all 11 years the Star Party has been in existence.

Gary Anderson, of Brooklyn Center, Jim Oulman of Forrest City, Iowa, and Pete Maynard, of Minneapolis, only see each other at this event.

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"But only in the dark,"

Oulman said.

"If I saw him on the street, I would never recognize you," Maynard said, jokingly.

About 20 people came out to the Star Party at the Sola Fide Observatory Friday. The party continued Saturday night.

Some visitors brought their own telescopes, others came just to look through them. Keith Synder, who organized the event, said the turnout is lower this year than last, but he couldn't have asked for better weather.

"It's clear tonight and it's supposed to be clear tomorrow," Snyder said.

Anderson has come to the party all 11 years. He own a 16-inch telescope, which he uses mostly to look at what he calls "faint fuzzies" or far-away galaxies.

The closest and largest galaxy he has seen is Andromeda, which is about two million light years away.

The farthest away object he has seen is the moons of Uranus.

Some amateur astronomers there teach astronomy to others. Maynard works at an observatory in Hopkins. Gene Kispert, of Owatonna, is an NASA ambassador and talks about astronomy and NASA to groups, such as the Kiwanis and Boy Scouts for free.

Dale Niedfeldt teaches astronomy courses for community education in Owatonna.

Niedfeldt brought his 14 1/2 inch telescope and pointed out different star clusters and nebulae for visitors. He explained the Milky Way is the shape of a plate and that the edge of that plate is what can be seen from earth.

Joe and Joyce Mlinar, of Austin, came out to look through the different telescopes.

"Everybody is so anxious to have you see what they see," Joe said. "And if you can't see it, they adjust it for you."

Joe has a telescope and sometimes the couple takes it out to the country to use it.

"It's a complicated subject. Maybe I'll start learning the constellations and talk like they do," Joyce said, referring to the amateur astronomers.

But astronomy doesn't always have to be highly technical.

Kispert pointed to the last star on the handle of the Big Dipper and said he tells children he speaks to that there's actually two stars there.

"I tell them it's a special star and that the light left that star on an important day," Kispert said. "The day I was born."

Kispert laughs and said he tells children to find a star and adopt it. And then learn about it.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at