The Waterbury Public Library staff is helping people get up close and personal with the stars.
Since February, the library has offered a telescope to check out — an Orion StarBlast, an amateur telescope, available for people over 18 to check out for a week at a time.
The library obtained the telescope through the Vermont Astronomical Society, which facilitates the purchase of telescopes for libraries and makes a few modifications to make them more user-friendly, such as attaching the lens cap to the telescope’s body with string so it’s not lost, and providing an easy-to-use lens.
The astronomical society also handles repairs for the life of the telescope.
Library director Almy Landauer said the library paid $350 for the telescope, which has been checked out six times since it arrived in February.
Landauer said it fits with her mission to expand the library’s community offerings.
“Libraries are a lot more than warehouses full of books these days. There’s a movement in public libraries to have what we call in the business nontraditional items, such as telescopes, snowshoes, games, gardening tools, and seed libraries,” she said. “There’s all sorts of things that libraries offer as a way to help build community, and one of my goals when I came here was to help the Waterbury library build some of those nontraditional collections. It’s just a way to enrich the community.
“I know people have been excited about having it,” Landauer said.
The telescope comes with a night sky guide and a headlamp with a red light, which has a limited impact on night vision.
“One patron said told the staff that their family (kids about 6 and 10) had a lot of fun with the telescope. They looked at stars and planets but also other things up close, like tree bark. They said it was straightforward to use,” Landauer said.
Jack St. Louis, president of the Vermont Astronomical Society, said it has supplied about 10 telescopes for Vermont libraries.
“It’s been a good program,” he said. “It’s a growing thing.”
Landauer said she hopes it encourages interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Lyrids coming up
The Lyrids meteor shower is forecast to reach its peak activity April 23.
We see meteor showers when the earth passes through debris left by comets and asteroids as it orbits the sun.
At its peak, the Lyrids meteor shower can offer a view of as many as 10 meteors per hour.
Meteors look like shooting stars, and can be seen with the naked eye; however, they can be even better seen with the use of a telescope.
Onlookers will have the best luck by looking at the darkest part of the sky they can find; a moon nearing full by April 23 might limit visibility in some parts of the sky.