Budziszyński Observatory with a new camera and a dome
The association has many plans to get children and young people interested in astronomy again. New technology should only be the first step.
Bautzen. Reinhard Köber presses the remote control and the telescope’s telescopes rotate in the desired direction. “The device asks me which star I want to see and then it aligns itself,” says Köber. He is the treasurer in the support association for the school observatory in Budziszyn. What makes the telescope it demonstrates special, however, are the cameras. “It was a really nice purchase,” says Köber. But around 2,000 euros is worth it. Because better sensors provide astronomy enthusiasts with even more beautiful pictures from the sky.
The telescope with old cameras has been standing on a white extension for several years next to the domed buildings in Czornebohstrasse in Bautzen. Here, the observatory school support association “Johannes Franz” has been observing, measuring and maintaining the equipment for many years.
New possibilities thanks to astrophotography
15 active members come regularly. They also show school classes from the school camp, as well as from the youth hostel and the observatory. As of September, members plan to reintroduce Friday night for all concerned, as it was before the crown pandemic. “When the holidays start, some after-school care groups will stop,” says Köber. His colleague Andreas Thronicker emphasizes that it is important for members to familiarize children with astronomy. The chairman of the association is the city watchman and guide, who also applied for the mayor’s position.
The observatory in Bautzen is one of the oldest and largest in Germany. Until the fall of communism in 1989, 4,000 astronomy teachers were trained here, and several hundred teachers underwent observation internships at the observatory. However, since 2007, astronomy is no longer compulsory in Saxon schools. It upsets the club. After all, astronomy is a science that has a lot to offer, says Thronicker.
“But people don’t like just looking anymore,” says Reinhard Körber, pointing to the telescope with the new cameras. Astrophotography has exciting possibilities. The new camera should take razor-sharp images of, for example, double stars, the Andromeda nebula and planets. “People are most interested in them,” says Köber. For example, Saturn with its moons, the belts of Jupiter, or Mars with its polar caps.
From heaven to screen
The images from the new camera are displayed directly on the screen in the lobby of the club building. Visitors can follow what is happening in the starry sky. When it’s bright, there’s less to see. When the sun is shining, you can still observe sunspots or occasional solar eclipses. The next one will be held on October 25. Venus can now also be seen during the day.
To ensure optimal protection of the cameras, the school observatory built a dome last year. Then another telescope with new cameras appears against the white walls. “Nobody hangs up when viewing and evaluating the images, and we can work at the same time,” explains Köber. The association has other plans, such as building a stone circle around Stonehenge and an astronaut playground.
In this way, members want to spark interest in astronomy through play. The association wants to focus more on its original purpose of being an educational institution. This has also become difficult recently as the Operations and Investment Firm Bautzen (BBB) is a for-profit sponsor. That is why, for example, entrance fees were increased.
“Astronomy classes should be reintroduced”
BBB took over the observatory from the city in 2019. Since then, the association and the municipal branch have been cooperating in running the school observatory. The city had previously considered resigning from the observatory, the association itself was unable to cope with the operation. The equipment is financed by BBB, donations from private individuals and companies such as Hentschke Bau and grants. Apart from one employee, all of them work on a voluntary basis, with a passion for astronomy. This should also be passed on to younger generations.
It is all the more incomprehensible to asthomes that science has disappeared from the Saxon curricula. “The Saxon government wants a large research center, but at the same time the foundations for it are being removed,” says Thronicker, referring to the German Astrophysics Center, whose initiators are currently in a competition for structural change. In the fall, it will be decided which large-scale research project should be located in Lusatia. The association hopes that the Astrophysics Center will popularize astronomy again. Thronicker would like it if every child looked through the telescope again: in astronomy lessons at school.