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August 5, 2008     Cape Gazette
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August 5, 2008

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.t! Cape Gazette Cape Life TUESDAY, AUGUST 5 - THURSDAY, AUGUST 7, 2008 1S Sussex Astronomy Society: Solar system and beyond Sky gazers bring the universe closer to home By Henry J. Evans Jr. Brian Brengle is looking for people interested in taking trips to the stars. The Sussex Astrono- my Society begins the first leg of its journeys to heavenly bodies, near and distant, at the Milton Public Library. "This is fun stuff," said Breno gle, Sussex Astronomy Society founding member. The astronomy society's first meeting, in June, was light years from being a big bang. The event barely registered a whimper as only one person - Brengle - ASTRONOMY SOCIETY GATHERINGS ARE OPEN TO ANYONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN LEARNING ABOUT THE COSMOS AND DELVING INTO ITS COUNTLESS MYSTERIES, showed up. "I started wondering. Is it pos- sible that no one around here is interested in astronomyP' Bren- gie said. With Milton librarian Gaff Young's assistance, Brengle said word of the astronomy society's gatherings has been spreading - not quite at the speed of light - but slowly pushing toward the outer limits. Astronomy society gatherings are open to anyone who is inter- ested in learning about the cos- mos and delving into its count- 16ss mysteries. Brengle, 42, lives in Milton. He said a discovery made in the ear- ly 1990s by David Levy and Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker sparked his interest in astronomy. "They were comet hunters. They would spend clear nights in an observatory hunting new comets," he said. Levy and Gene Shoemaker would photograph targeted areas of sky, and Carolyn would exam- ine the images looking for comets. In 1993 their efforts paid off when they codiscovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. After independent confirma- tion of the fmd, astronomers de- termined the comet's fate -it was headed for impact on Jupiter. "I remembered hearing about it but I got so busy that I missed seeing it slam into Jupiter It was something that you could have seen with an amateur-sized tele- scope. "I kicked myself over it be- cause it was an unprecedented event in human history that, for the most part, has gone pretty much unnoticed," Brengle said. He said the comet's collision with Jupiter shook up the field of astronomy, challenging theories about impacts that had occurred on the Moon and on Earth. "Up until that time they really hadn't come to grips withthe fact that objects can still hit other objects in the solar system - mainly the Earth," Brengle said. After paying $90 for a tele- scope, which he purchased from a well-known retailer of prod- ucts imported from China and sold at always-low prices, Bren- gle said he thought he was ready for serious stargazing. "I had no idea what I was do- ing. It was a waste of money," he said about the telescope, which frustrated him because of its lim- ited capabilities. Brengle said he began reading about astronomy, immersing himself in textbooks, and study- ing periodicals such as Sky & Telescope and Astronomy Maga- zine. He also learned to use star charts - maps of the sky. "I knew I had to teach myself " Continued on page 16 HENRY J. EVANS JR. PHOTO BRIAN BRENGLE LAUNCHED the Sussex Astronomy Society in June. The ama- teur astronomer group meets monthly at the Milton Public Library, where novice and experienced universe gazers share information. Brengte is shown with one of his favorite telescopes, a lO-inch Dobsonian capable of viewing extremely distant objects. Saltwater Portrait )) Fred and Roberta Fessenbecker: Making art for all By Ryan Mavity rya n the surface, they seem like any other retired couple, quietly living in a ranch-style house off Route 24 in one of the many subdivisions in the area.. But beneath Fred and Roberta Fessenbecker's friendly and ac- commodating demeanor are two accomplished artists who have spent a lifetime working in their crafts. Roberta Fessenbecker fast learned to draw from her grand- father, and after his death, she learned the art of china painting from her grandmother. "She was a craft person in Philadelphia. And at that time I had started a little oil painting. My grandfather had passed away quite a few years before that, and she had remarried. So RYAN MAVITY PHOTO FRED AND ROBERTA FESSEN- BECKER are accomplished artists who have spent a lifetime working in their crafts. one day I was visiting her and I said, 'Grandma, why don't you teach me how to china paint" she said. Growing up in West Chester, P a., Roberta has held many day jobs through her life: machinist, cafeteria worker and teacher. Painting has long beerl her hob- by and throughout the Fessen- becker home is Roberta's art- work: Native American-themed works, oil paintings and of course, her china paintings, which include a startlingly accu- rate china box featuring a like- ness of actor/director Orson Welles "I really like to paint by my- self, but I like being with a crowd, so I would still go to classes just to be with every- body and continue to work," she said. Roberta has been involved in several organizations dealing with china painting including the Mid-Atlantic China Painting Teachers Organization and the World Organization of China Painting. "It's been a wonderful hobby. I don't know what I would have done ifI had never gone into it. It's a little more rewarding than oil painting. I really enjoy it," she said. Fred Fessenbecker's artistic love for all his life has been po- etry. Born in 1921, Fred learned how to write poetry in third grade. His fast poem was a school assignment; the teacher asked students to write a poem about their mothers for a Moth- er's Day assignment. His fast poem that gained him recognition was written after he got out of the service and was working for Westinghouse. "On an airplane coming hack from Chattanooga, I feel asleep. But there was a group of us quality people from Pittsburgh Westinghouse, and I didn't know it but the big dog was there," Fred recounts "And when I was asleep they told him that I was a x poet. And he said, 'What kind of poetry does he like?' They told him, 'If you wake him up and tell him something you want a poem on he'll have it written before we get to Pittsburgh.' They woke me up and I told them, 'Hey, don't embarrass me, you're put- ting me on the spot.' They asked the man what they want me to write about and they said Presi- dent Eisenhower:' After writing the poem, he sent it in to Washington and got a response back from then- White House Chief of Staff Sherman Adams. Another of Fred's poems was called "Valley Forge." He was in- spired to write the poem after attending a convention there in 1976. "It was a very patriotic time," he said, 'A veteran of the Second World War contacted people who went back to generations Continued on page 16