Congratulations to Paul Winalski, Winner of the Las Cumbres Award for Astronomy Outreach!
Paul Winalski in his element, setting up his telescope to share views of the moon with some young observers.
Photo Credit: Tom Cocchiaro/New Hampshire Astronomical Society

The Night Sky Network extends our congratulations to Paul Winalski of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society on receiving the 2017 Cumbres Outreach Award. from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific! The Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award was established by Wayne Rosing and Dorothy Largay in order to honor amateur astronomers who perform outstanding educational outreach to schoolchildren and the general public. Paul works hard representing the NHAS at outreach events and has helped countless members of his community witness amazing views of the heavens.

We got in touch with Paul to find out more about his love of bringing astronomy to the public and how he first got started with astronomy and his local club.
photo of Paul Winalski from the New Hampshire Astronomical Society
Photo of Paul Winalski from the homepage of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society
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NSN: I read on the New Hampshire Astronomical Society's website that you had taken a break from astronomy when you were younger and then resumed in 2003.What got you back into astronomy?

Paul W: I've always been interested in astronomy.  My parents bought a 4-1/2"
reflector for me and my brother and I used it a lot as a teenager.
What with the distractions of college and then an engineering job, I stopped observing after high school.

What got me started again was when I discovered that one of my co-workers had a 16" Dobsonian and a 9" DGM Optics off-axis Newtonian.  He was a member of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society.  I went to one of their meetings, and then some of their "Sky Watch" public observing sessions.   That reawakened my interest in telescope observing.   

Paul W: I joined NHAS and ordered a custom-built 14" Dob from Taychert Telescopes.  I took delivery of that telescope in April 2004, and since then there's been no looking back.  Since the 14" Dob can't be used for solar observing, I got a solar aperture filter for the old 4-1/2" Newt that I used as a teenager and used that scope for the last time to observe the 2004 transit of Venus.

NSN: What got you interested in astronomy outreach to the public, and why do you do it?

Paul W: NHAS's outreach activities were what got me back up to speed in the hobby after a 20+ year absence.  I went at first to learn what amateur telescope options were now available.  For example, the Dobsonian mount hadn't been invented when I was last active in the hobby, and field scopes of more than 6" aperture were an expensive rarity.

I was (and still am) fascinated by the gasps of delight and look of wonder in the eyes of folks who are looking through a telescope for the first time.  I'm always struck by the beauty of the objects in the night sky, and I've found that the more I know about them, the more wondrous they are. I very much enjoy sharing my own fascination and enthusiasm with others.

NSN: Did you have a "first" outreach event, or did you sort of gradually drift into doing outreach?

Paul W: I went the first time entirely for personal reasons: to reacquaint myself with amateur telescope gear after being away from the hobby for so long.  But I became fascinated and delighted by the reactions of those outside the hobby when they looked through the scopes. So I gradually got more and more involved in NHAS's outreach activities.

NSN: What was one of your favorite outreach events, and why?

Paul W: That's a tough question.  I'd have to say our club's participation in the annual Market Square Day in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire stands out. They close out Market Square to traffic.  NHAS has a booth there and sets up telescopes for solar observing.  Tens of thousands of people stop by.  One year we got to see a X-class solar flare in progress through the H-alpha telescopes.

Another event that stands out was an outreach activity we did for Goffstown Public Library.  One family had a very elderly gentleman with a stiff back who could barely bend over enough to use the scope. He was 99 years old and was there with his great grandchildren.  This was the first time he'd seen Jupiter in a telescope!

NSN: What are your favorite objects to observe  both for outreach, and personally? Do you have any trusty 'outreach" scopes, and if you favor a particular scope or two, why them in particular?

Paul W: For outreach, I start with the Moon and planets, since they're both impressive and the first objects that appear after sunset, so small children who have to go to bed early can see and enjoy them.  I like Mizar and 61 Cygni as double stars, particularly because of their history (Mizar being the first star to be photographed, and 61 Cyg the first whose distance was directly measured).  I also concentrate on the eye candy deep-sky objects such as M42, M31, M57, the Perseus Double Cluster, M13, M81/82, and NGC 457.

For outreach I generally use the 14" Taychert TScope dob, which gives spectacular views of the eye candy objects.  Often I bring along a TeleVue 85mm refractor for the Moon and planets, and for objects such as the Pleiades and M44 that are too big to fit in the 14" scope's field of view.

NSN: Thank you so much for you time Paul! 

Paul W: You're most welcome!

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You can find Paul at one of the many outreach events hosted by the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, where he not only helps with outreach, but also volunteers as the club secretary!

Last Updated: November 8, 2017

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