Gaze Into The Heavens With The Franklin Township Astronomy Club

Zach Lichtmann adjusts his telescope July 19 outside the municipal building.

A township resident is looking to share his long-time hobby with his fellow residents.

Zach Lichtmann, who has been an amateur astronomer for more than 20 years, created the Franklin Astronomy Club to share the pursuit with other astronomers and to introduce others – especially children – to the hobby.

Lichtmann and several of his friends planted themselves in the municipal complex parking lot, across from the library, for a couple of hours to gaze into the heavens through Lichtmann’s telescope.

A 7-year township resident, Lichtmann is a children’s book author and vice-chairman of the Franklin Township Cultural Arts Council. But first, he was an astronomer.

He’s been peeking through telescopes for the last 20 0r so years, he said.

“Before that, my dad and I, we’d sit on the couch and talk physics,” he said. “That was the fun, the quirky stuff in the universe, why magnets do what they do. We loved to read, we loved science. Big nerds.”

Astronomy, Lichtmann said, is “a fun hobby where the learning curve is long. You can get into it with a couple hundred dollars of equipment, or half of that with used equipment, and start seeing stuff the first night you go out with the moon and what’s readily available.”

“But then you start learning stuff, figuring out what you can see further and further and fainter, and using different equipment,” he said. “You can have fun with it for a long time. And then sharing it with people. It’s a good hobby.”

Lichtmann said he could not specify one particular “oh wow” moment in his two decades of star gazing.

“There’s a lot of neat little things that you’ll catch that you don’t expect to at the moment,” he said. “As simple as a satellite that goes by in the telescope. It’s really rare because you’re looking at such a tiny piece of the sky, but you’ll see this little glint of light.”

“But you’ll never forget the first time you see the big things, like Saturn’s rings, and you’re looking at it not in a picture book but with your own eye, and you say that’s Saturn right there. That’s amazing,” he said.

Lichtmann said “you can’t help but wonder” when looking through the telescope if there are beings in space looking back at us.

“We talk about numbers a lot, and the number of stars that we can see with our little telescopes, we’re talking trillions of stars,” he said. “And you start wondering, OK, half of them have planets attached to them, give or take, and there’s a great quote, ‘In an infinite universe, everything that’s possible is happening somewhere.’ That’ll make your mind boggle too.”

“So who knows,” he said. “It’s neat to think about, though.”

Lichtmann said the club is tentatively set to have it’s first meeting in the library on Aug. 2, and is working on having a viewing session in Colonial Park on Aug. 11.

Club events will be posted on the club’s Facebook page, he said.

The club is free to join and open to everyone, although children must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information, Lichtmann can be reached at FranklinAstronomy@gmail.com.


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