Mark Slade Memorial Observatory
My name is Myron Wasiuta and in March of this year one of my closest friends, Mark Slade, died unexpectedly. I was in the Florida Keys camping with my family when his wife Laura called me with the news. I was devastated. I had known Mark for almost 25 years. How could he be gone? A wave of grief I had never felt before decended as I realized I had just lost my friend of the Night. Or actually, my friend of a Thousand Nights. I would never hear him again...
You see, our friendship did not grow in the normal way. It was nurtured by words spoken in the dark under the stars. It was months before I knew him as something other than a large, vague form with a deep, but kind voice. Ever busy adjusting his telescope, or focussing his camera, he would spend hours barely moving, intently staring into an eyepiece making sure his telescope tracked the stars as accurately as possible. As I soon realized, Mark wasn't just an amateur astronomer- he was an expert astrophotographer. His passion was taking pictures through his telescope. Carefully plying his trade, he would catch photons of light that left a distant galaxy millions of years ago! Using his telescope as a sort of cosmic net, he would turn his "catch" into a photograph showing galactic spiral arms awash in stardust or a gossamer cloud of galactic dust and gas where stars were forming before our eyes! Mark was an artist in every sense of the word as well-his easel a piece of film, his paintbrush a telescope, and his subject the infinite universe itself! And I was there while he painted, helping him with small tasks and large-or sometimes just handing him his camera. Together we observed under the stars of a thousand nights.
Mark loved sharing his photographs with anyone and everyone. He would set up his telescope on the sidewalk in front of libraries and at the local Mall and invite folks to have a look at the Moon or the rings of Saturn. After a few minutes, he would bring out his photographs and begin explaining the secrets they contained! "This galaxy has a hundred billion stars" he would say,or "right here in this blurry spot is a Black Hole!" He loved engaging young people especially-hoping to instill an interest or awaken a curiousity in their minds.
Mark had always wanted an observatory for his telescope. A place where it could be set up permamently in his backyard and be protected from the weather. He had almost everything needed to complete the observatory. Sadly, he died before his observatory was finished.
I would like to finish it for him, and make it available to others in hopes that it inspires, awakens, and stimulates an interest in the night sky and wonders of the universe. He had a large, professional grade telescope, computers, software and rotating dome. The last remaining big item he needed was a fiberglass roof to attach the rotating dome to the wooden shelter. Its called a dome skirt, and costs about 1000 dollars. In addition, lumber will be needed to make an 8-foot square structure to support the dome.
Once finished, the observatory will be a resource for the community. Because it is hoped the telescope and observatory will be able to be controlled remotely over the internet, it will be available to members of local astronomy clubs in the region, as well as students in public and private schools without actually having to be at the observatory in person. In addition, anyone contributing to this campaign will have an opportunity to use the telescope as well. This observatory will help carry on Mark's legacy of public education and promoting an interest in science and photography. Who knows-one of the young users of this observatory may be inspired to go on someday and make amazing discoveries in science or other fields.
I would like to thank you for reading this, and know Mark would be very grateful for any help that is received. I would be more than happy to answer any questions about this endeavor.
The picture in this campaign is me under the stars of Big Pine Key the night I learned of Mark's passing. It shows my final goodbye, and in my mind I heard his voice one last time. He was asking me to hand him my camera.
Dear Ron and Jerry, Just saw your generous contributions. I want to thank you for your support on this project. I think Mark would be very pleased with our progress and it's amazing to me to see the generousity shown to further his vision of recording the heavens and sharing with others! The construction phase of the observatory has already begun with the telescope pier sandblasted and painted, the concrete footings have been relocated and framing of three of the four walls of the dome room is completed. I'll keep everyone posted. Thank you again everyone for the donations!
Scott and Jerry Thank you very much for your generous contributions. I've started building the walls already and have the pier sandblasted and painted. I'll keep you posted!