NEW ULM - Tim Conroy has been gazing at the sky for many years.
Conroy, a teacher of astronomy for the District 88 Community Education program, was eager to share his lifelong hobby with others. In 2010, he and his wife, Laura, and friend Jon Sellner, founded the New Ulm Astronomy Club. Their mission? To get more people involved in learning about science, particularly about the complex area of astronomy.
Weather permitting and schedules allowing, the club's 10 active members try to meet monthly in parks around the area.
From left, Astronomy Club founders Jon Sellner, Laura Conroy and Tim Conroy pose with the club’s collection of telescopes.
"New Ulm is a good area for astronomy because there's not a lot of light pollution," Conroy said. "On a good night, if you know where to look, you can see a whole other galaxy with just your own eyes."
The non-profit, self-funded group utilizes five telescopes. It began with smaller, less expensive scopes and worked its way up to an impressive 15-inch reflecting telescope. This particular telescope captures over 1,000 times more light than the human eye.
The club has also acquired a solar telescope, which it uses for solar viewing and imaging. In the future, the Conroys hope to establish a telescope loaning system - similar to a telescope library, if you will. Instead of checking out a book, a person could check out a telescope for personal use.
The club has no member restrictions and is open to all ages.
As Conroy quips, "The more, the better." The group is especially looking for younger members.
Conroy said he had been fond of astronomy growing up, but he simply did not know how to get into it. Membership in this group could serve as an opportunity for young people to work with high-quality telescopes and community experts as opposed to a low-quality, beginner telescope that may elicit a negative first experience.
Conroy said a young person's involvement in this club could have a significant impact on his or her life.
"It's good to get everyone involved, but it's really nice to get kids involved," Conroy said. "It really sets them on a path."
Planetary viewing has acted as a large part of Conroy's life, and the sharing of his experiences with other members of the New Ulm Astronomy Club has generated more interest in astronomy in the community.
"It's fun to see the look on people's faces," he said. "Seeing it for the first time through a telescope - it's pretty special."
For more information about the New Ulm Astronomy Club's meetings and public viewings, check its Facebook page ("New Ulm Astronomy Club") or email Tim Conroy at email@example.com.