As the weather warms up, more people are going out at night and enjoying the late sunset. Taylor Dock, a popular location where people jump into the bay from, is the host of Space Time with Robert, a weekly star and planet observing community.
Robert Wilmore and other local astronomy enthusiasts gather every clear sky Sunday evening to look through telescopes, observing stars, planets, nebulas, and more. These events, started by Wilmore back in 2017 began as a hobby and blossomed into a popular gathering for folks who are interested in space.
Wilmore started his journey into telescoping and observing space back in 2015 when he bought his first telescope, a Meade 114mm Lightbridge mini. After a year of learning how to use it, he decided to take it out to Boulevard Park where he set up and invited people to come look through his telescope.
“When I took my telescope to the park, Boulevard park, for the first time I interacted with people, they had a good time looking through my telescope,” Wilmore said, as he described his first experience sharing his telescopes.
After a successful first time, people asked if he would bring it out again. WIlmore started to bring it out at least once a month, but he wanted to find a better view. This inspired him to buy his largest telescope so far. The larger telescope could see farther and more detailed views of the stars and planets observable from Earth.
“We had an idea, me and my dad, to document how many people we were sharing the telescope with,” Wilmore said. “We came up with a few ideas, like a little log book that everyone who looks through signs, but it seemed abstract, too distant from the telescope itself, and inconvenient.
That is when the idea to have people sign the telescope itself came around. Everyone who looks through the telescope gets to sign their name with a colored marker of their choice. The telescopes get filled fully with signatures until there is no more space to sign.
Wilmore was getting donations from the people who would come to his events and he raised enough money to buy a new telescope so people could start signing their names again.
“I decided to buy another one so we could start all over, with more room, so no one is going to be worried about signing over someone’s signature, but we came up with an issue,” Wilmore stated.
With a new telescope in use, Wilmore needed to figure out what he was going to do with his previous one as it was covered in signatures. That is when the idea of giving it away came to mind.
“We decided to donate the telescope to Bellingham High School,” Wilmore said. In order to make this possible he got in touch with the science teacher at BHS and talked with him about giving him the telescope, to which he accepted.
With the weekly nights becoming more popular, the second telescope got covered in signatures again, which was donated to the Explorations Academy. This trend continued on with his next telescope, which got donated to Nooksack Tribal School.
“People are still giving me money,” Wilmore exclaimed. “So we are using the public’s money to fund their own astronomy program. It’s so much fun!”
Wilmore believes people can benefit hugely from coming out to his weekly events. He mentioned how by learning where the North star is, you can use it to prevent yourself from getting lost.
“We will show you other constellations and other things above your head that you may not have known, like planets! I didn’t know that planets were visible with the naked eye,” Wilmore explained. “Once I was aware I could see them, low and beyond, 2017, I have a telescope. So I wanted to see these things closer, and you can too if you come down here.”
Wilmore noted out that for people who don’t have a telescope, or people who want to get one, this is the chance to come look through a large one for free. He brings more than a few telescopes so multiple people can view at once.
Wilmore has been able to capture photos of stars, planets, nebulas, and galaxies through his telescopes and with the help of mosaic stacking techniques. One recent image he took was of a host galaxy, M101, which he captured on Isaac, his 10” F5 Newtonian telescope.
Wilmore hopes to continue these events and continue donating telescopes. His end goal is to “litter Whatcom County with as many 10-inch Dobsonian telescopes as possible. Hopefully we can get one 10-inch Dobsonian in every school in Whatcom County.” After that he wants to continue to expand to counties south and eventually have a growing community of people who go out and invite others to look through and sign their telescopes.
“Sundays at sunsets, when it’s clear out, forever and ever and ever,” Wilmore said, encouraging folks to join him.