Front seat to the universe: 15 fast questions for the owners of an eclipse-ready home observatory

They aren’t calling the total solar eclipse viewing parties “Nerdstock” for nothing. Scientists of all stripes are pulling into fields, some painfully away from cellphone service, to collect under the path of totality and prepare for the two-minute blackout on Monday, Aug. 21.

It’s a geek gathering, all right. But even among this spellbound crowd, Jon and Susan Brewster are supernovas.

The Brewsters designed and built their hilltop house in Monmouth, Oregon for many years of astronomy which will now be capped off by this eclipse experience. The vantage point in the “sticks,” as they say, is above fog and pollen, away from light pollution, and remote enough to have an unobscured horizon.

A rooftop observatory is stocked with everything they and 100 friends will need to closely study when the moon crosses in front of the sun above them.

As they are transfixed, a telescope in the 7-foot-diameter dome will capture images for ogling later.

OK, so it’s a bit out of this world. But as news stories about their precisely planned home crisscrossed the planet, Jon found it necessary to say that they aren’t “kooks.”

Instead, let’s call them stargazers extraordinaire. 

Jon is a chief scientist with HP who writes software for “fun” in his nonworking hours, and Susan is a mom and community volunteer. Both want to set the record straight about the home they have been living in since 2001.

Internet buzz about their “extreme” devotion to celestial capers has casual readers believing the couple has waited decades for this one, fabulous sky show.

That’s partially true. They have been gearing up for the Monday morning event, but in the meantime, they have been mapping other astro aerobics and hosting star parties.

“As we say, ’16 years of great astronomy and now with an eclipse to top it off,'” says Jon.

It is true, however, that overcast skies in Portland during the 1979 total solar eclipse motivated them to find a better spot for the next one.

That idea lapsed for a decade, but then they spent another decade looking for property with clear views in the path of this year’s total eclipse.

In 1994, their search was rewarded. They found a clear-cut hilltop on 40 acres, and bought it from a timber company that had no more use for it.

Few other buyers wanted the denuded site, but the Brewsters saw the beauty in it. There was a light dome only in the east from Salem, but otherwise dark.

Also important: At 600 feet elevation, about the height of the Seattle Space Needle, the house sits above the valley’s fog and pollen clouds. Being on top of the slope means growing trees won’t block the view.

“The logging company we purchased the property from took a million board feet of lumber out of here,” writes Brewster in his blog. “We have replanted, but have left a good zone around the observatory and house.”

Selecting the spot was the first part. They also had to create an address on  Mistletoe Road and lay 400 feet of road up the hill. And they had to be smart….

Read the full article from the Source…

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