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Former educator continues lifelong passion in Astronomy

By Staff | May 20, 2015

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary David Reese at his observatory on Beaver Lake Road.

HUGHESVILLE – Keeping his eyes on the skies has been a continuing hobby for David Reese. As a lifelong resident of Beaver Lake Road, Reese has seen remarkable changes in technology beginning as a youngster witnessing watches by members of the Ground Observer Corps (GOC), to constructing an observatory in his back yard.

During the cold war years of the 1950’s, former President Eisenhower instituted GOC. Shacks were built on various hilltops where the most technological equipment used by civilian volunteers were telephones, binoculars and charts identifying air planes. GOC became obsolete when the radar stations such as the one at Red Rock was built.

Within a few yards from where the former wooden shack was located sits a steel building topped with a dome. Rollers on a track allow the dome to be rotated so the one panel section will open to view any part of the sky.

“When I was growing up, the skies were very dark then, and you could see many stars; and during the summer the Milky Way was very prominent. Now much more lighting is used, making it difficult.”

The observer recalls the experience which caught his interest. “When being a fourth grade student at Ferrell School, I did a report on the Solar System and began keeping a notebook on the weather and some observations,” Reese said.

The budding astronomer’s parents recognized their son’s interest and in the seventh grade gave him a three-and-one-half inch Gilbert reflector telescope so he could look at the planets. “Parts of that telescope are still around in my work shop. During that time I tried to photograph some objects with a box camera, but most were failures,” he said.

Even though Reese had other interests during high school, he had always liked astronomy due to its close relationship with physics and math. In college at the University of Maryland, the student decided to study physics taking 20 credits in astronomy.

Reese said that, “After graduation I returned to the farm and took a position at Loyalsock High School teaching physics and math for 17 years. In my physics classes, I emphasized astronomy especially in mechanics. Also the history of astronomy is a great way to get kids excited about physics. I hosted some evening viewing sessions with students, one of which built a Foucault testing device for testing telescope mirrors.

Two other students built a planetarium and during lunch time we put on astronomy shows for any classes who wanted to attend. One student kept a record of sunspots everyday. It was clear, and he put the drawing together in a notebook so you could see the rotation of the sun. Another student built a light receiver and we connected it to a milliampmeter which measures the brightness of the sun every clear day at noon.”

During his teaching years, Reese did little astronomy at home and didn’t have a working telescope. This included the 17 years Reese was principal at his alma mater, Hughesville High School (HHS).

“When I received the gift of a 13-inch Dobsonian Reflector as a 25th anniversary gift from my wife (the former Lois Shaner), I started to get back into observing. After retiring in 1999 I began working toward photographing the sky which increased after building the observatory in 2008.”

Visitors at the observatory included several fellow astrologers and occasionally boy scout troops

Retirement found Reese teaching “Backyard Astronomy” evening Adult education classes at HHS. Last summer Reese contacted Lena Carichner asking if he could have an astronomy class at the library which is usually scheduled quarterly.

Continuing with his passion, Reese has also hosted sessions for Boy Scout Troops.