The Times West Virginian

January 19, 2014

Astronomy Day turnout on increase

Club eager to take on new members

By Kristen Talerico
Times West Virginian

CLARKSBURG — The Central Appalachian Astronomy Club and Dominion Resources held Astronomy Day Saturday afternoon at the Gaston Caperton Center Fairmont State University Clarksburg Campus.

This annual event takes place every January and welcomed all ages to come out and enjoy the wonders of the sky.

Joe Gonzales, one of the founding members of the club, said this was the 14th year for the event, and the turnout continues to increase.

One of the featured speakers was Mark “Indy” Kochte, operation specialist for the Messenger Mission, with an inspiring presentation of "Comets —  Messengers from the Depths Of Space.”

“Comet is derived from Greek, and means long-haired star,” Kochte said.

Kochte added the Messenger is a spacecraft orbiting Mercury.

Time-lapse photography is one of Kochte’s hobbies that he does for fun on the side.

“The videos normally take a couple weekends to put together,” Kochte added.

Kochte has attended Astronomy Day for the past 12 or 13 years and said it is a great opportunity for people to learn something about space that they do not already know, and they can learn from someone who has direct experience in the subject.

“Depth and detail are key when providing information,” Kochte said.

Jim King, state worker and founding member of the Astronomy Club, demonstrated three different types of telescopes at the event — the refractor, reflector and Schmidt Cassegrain.

“These telescopes range in prices from $250 to $3,500,” King said.

He added, “Saturn is my favorite planet to look at because it was the first thing I recognized through the telescope, and its rings are fascinating.”

In addition, King and Gonzales started the club in 2001 when they were searching for a club to join.

“The club now has about 38 members,” King said.

Connie Ahrens, secretary of the Central Appalachian Astronomy Club, said a lot of middle schools come in, and this can make a difference and get the interest up for kids.

She added the kids room is a big hit for the younger ones.

“There are no worries in the kids room; it is safe and has adult supervision,” Ahrens said.

Light refreshments were available to all visitors on Saturday, and at least 100 people attended the event.

Gonzales said, “We strongly encourage people to join who want to develop their interest in astronomy.”

The Astronomy Club meets once a month, and more information about joining is available at or by calling 304-626-5012.

Email Kristen Talerico at or follow her on Twitter @KTalericoTWV.