Go for the dream!

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, March 16, 2007

This past week was a special one watching television at the Eicher household. Yeah, The Office was on again, the much-treasured Curb Your Enthusiasm reruns and travel shows on European destinations for next year. But something really special was also on: Tuesday night's episode, March 13, on the Travel Channel, of John Ratzenberger's Made in America. Each week, Ratzenberger, former costar of the sitcom Cheers, takes his crew across the nation to highlight interesting stories surrounding manufactured goods. This week he profiled Astro-Physics, Inc., the telescope manufacturer based in Rockford, Illinois. (If you missed the episode, I'm sure it will be rebroadcast; check local listings.)
In a well-produced segment featuring Ratzenberger clowning a bit with an Astro-Physics telescope and excellent shots from inside the manufacturer's facility, viewers saw how fine telescopes are produced. The driving forces behind Astro-Physics, Roland and Marj Christen, explained to the audience the genesis of their business and how telescopes are manufactured, from glass-grinding to machining of numerous parts to assembly and testing. It was an outstanding, behind-the-scenes tour, a tour that a couple of Astronomy editors took with me in person a few months beforehand.

I've known Roland and Marj for years, since the days of Deep Sky Monthly magazine in the late 1970s. Seeing them describing their outstanding products and listening to the story of Astro-Physics, however, struck me. Were it not for Roland's dissatisfaction with the telescopes of the 1970s and vision to make high-end refractors, his considerable influence in the hobby of astronomy would be markedly changed. The hobby owes a debt of gratitude for the years of hard work the Christens have put into their business, and for making our hobby a better one for it.

What would amateur astronomy have been without Roland Christen? Without John Dobson and his sidewalk popularization of astronomy? Without David Levy's comet discoveries? Steve O'Meara's voluminous writings about careful observations? Richard Berry's founding and promoting of Telescope Making magazine?

So much and so many have been influenced greatly, in his hobby, by the spark and drive of the dreams of a select few.

If you have a dream, a desire to give something to this hobby of astronomy, make it happen! You never know where it will take you, and the hobby.

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