Welcome to Bill Toomey's Astronomy Page


Project Astro Star Party in Reading MA

Star Parties and Talks

Most star parties at schools are scheduled before day light savings time changes in the spring.

I have no talks or star parties scheduled at this time.

Project Astro

For the past number of years I have been part of Project Astro.

Project Astro is a National Science Foundation funded program which pairs Astronomers with Science Teachers to help bring astronomy education into our schools.

Our region is administered through the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA.

Besides going into the classroom, we also provide star parties for the Project Astro schools. I am the speaker at many of these. I usually give talks on how to get started as an astronomical observer, when you know you are ready for a telescope, and the Moon and the planets that are visible the night of the star party.

I have been working with a Science Teacher and her students at the Rogers School in Lowell.

Mirror Making

I finished refiguring the plate glass 4.5" mirror from the Tasco telescope I bought when I was in high school (guess how old that makes the scope). It was coated on Thursday 24 September 1998. We remounted the secondary that night at the ATMoB club house at Hay Stack. The secondary is of poor quality and will have to be replaced. I will make or buy one soon. I also replaced the focus tube with a 1.25" so I can use my standard eye pieces. This scope still needs a lot of work but this is a good start and makes it usable. I have written an article for the ATMoB news letter "Star Fields" about this project.

It is time to get back to grinding my 8" mirror.

Computer Control of Telescopes

One of my projects that I never seem to find time for is computer control of telescopes. From what I can see, all the parts are there for anyone to use.

I have two optical encoders from US Digital and an interface from Ouranos mounted on my 8" dob. This provides input to "The Sky" planetarium program which I run on a laptop computer. As I move the scope, the laptop shows where in the sky it is pointing.

I bought one of Mel Bartels' motor circuit boards to drive the telescope from the computer. This sat in a box for 5 years, but just I used it in a project I did for an Advanced Unix Programming course I took at work through Northeastern University. I have updated the report with some programming changes and have made it available here. I am now mounting the floppy drive stepper I talked about in the report onto an EQ2 mount so it can be used as a camera platform. This mount can only be driven through the polar axis, but it will be a good test of my code. I have an EQ3 mount which I can use to attach two of the floppy drive motors, and I also have a Super Polaris mount with its own stepper motors that I can try after that.

Here are some URLs that helped me get started on this project:

Ouranos interface

US Digital encoders

MicroGuider III info

Mel Bartels' home page


Links to sites that you may like:


Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston

Sky & Telescope Magazine

Astronomy Magazine

Willmann-Bell books

Harvard - Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

American Meteor Society

Astronomical Society of the Pacific

New England Light Pollution Advisory Group (NELPAG)

Stellafane convention


International Space Station


Last update 23 January 2004

If you find problems on this page, please let me know.