Submitted by Barbara Bobo
Oh, my stars! Peering into the night skies have been the purview of Doug and Paula Cunningham for over 48 years. Their fascination began on their honeymoon, at their family cottage in PEI, prompting the purchase of their first book “New Handbook of the Heavens” and many years later, the building of observatories and free ‘night sky’ programs here on the Bruce Peninsula.
Sprinkling their lively discussion and slide show with provocative photos of constellations with the words of poets through the ages, they brought out the spiritual importance of our relationship with the universe, which is our home. Traveling to China, Easter Island, Mongolia, Namibia, Turkey, the Atacama desert, and with other astronomers around the world, viewing and photographing at least 10 solar eclipses, and of course the Aurora Borealis. Not only observing the night skies on their journeys, they also learned about the different cultures that exist upon our planet.
The enthusiastic Cunninghams have not kept their hobby a private affair. Along with others who share their passion, they have shared our night skies on the Bruce Peninsula at “the POD” (Peninsula Observation Deck), a specifically designed observation deck at the Lion’s Head Marina with FREE “Night Sky” summer evening programs complete with telescopes. The Dark Skies and UNESCO World Biosphere projects have been foremost in their work for years. They have also worked locally to limit light pollution which affects all of us. I personally liked the T-shirt that states “Keep your light, out of my night!”
It’s easy to connect with their excitement and remember the first time I observed Saturn at the McDonald Observatory telescope in the Davis Mountains in Texas…. in that instance, the overused slang word “Awesome” is actually “Right ON!”
To get a taste of the immensity of our galaxy, Doug mentioned the work of Nick Risinger’s work of photographing the complete Milky Way. Composed of 37,000 images, a 5,000 mega pixel photograph now exists. And one of the many quotes from the great minds that have commented upon our night skies, physicist Henri Poincare (1837-1921) said, “The Scientist does not study nature because it is useful. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, because it is beautiful”.
The next BPEG meeting is November 6, Annual General Meeting and Potluck at Christ Church Parish Hall, Lion’s Head, 6pm.