Back in 1868, Keystone Academy was incorporated.
Just as the institution has evolved into an upper academic institution, so too has the science of astronomy.
About 25 people showed up at the Cupillari Observatory on Monday to hear Emeritus Prof. Thomas Cupillari speak on how the science has changed.
In many ways astronomy back in 1868 was quite different from today, Cupillari said. But it has remained a popular subject through the years.
Producing a photo of an unknown year, Cupillari said he is certain it was in the late 1800s from the style of clothing. The picture depicts members of the Keystone Academy Astronomy Club - male and female students - posing outside of Harris Hall with the club’s small refracting telescope.
Refracting telescopes are among the oldest in existence, Cupillari explained. Galileo’s first telescopes back in 1610 were refractors, and with them he studied the moon and discovered four of Jupiter’s satellites.
Another type of telescope known in 1868 and still used today is the basic Newtonian reflecting telescope, Cupillari explained, which employes a series of mirrors to bend and focus light.
With most telescopes, the greater the focal length, the bigger the image.
Back in 1868, Cupillari said, a reflective telescope 200 inches in length was built in California. Today, reflective telescopes have been created that are 40, 50 or even 60 feet in length.
“And the cost is very expensive,” he observed.
In 2009, Cupillari continued, the college purchased a 20-inch RC type reflector, which employs technology that makes it as efficient as much longer telescopes.
“It took us a year to get it,” he explained. “It cost $57,000 for the telescope, another $12,000 for the equipment, and $4,000 for the support. We try to be very careful with that.”
If astronomy in 1868 was merely walking compared to today, photography was only crawling. The beautiful color photos of multiple galaxies one can find in magazines and on the internet are created by the biggest telescopes - employing timed exposures 10, 20, or even 50 hours long, Cupillari explained.
“Back in the 19th Century, film was not very good. It was very slow and in black and white,” he said.
Because of this, many of the astronomical recordings from that period come from drawings instead of photographs. Many astronomers would stare into the eyepiece of their telescopes, carefully sketching what they saw.
“Many of the drawings turned out to be quite accurate,” Cupillari explained.
Some years ago, Cupillari said, he had a student who was an art major who decided to create drawings of Jupiter and Saturn as a project. Using the Alvan Clark telescope, she sketched a series of drawings of both planets which were beautifully detailed.
Following the lecture, Cupillari provided a bit more information about Keystone’s modern astronomy program. When he started teaching at Keystone in 1965, Cupillari said, astronomy was only offered as part of some general science courses.
In 1968, Cupillari put together Keystone’s first astronomy course.
By 2008, Cupillari explained, astronomy had advanced so much the college had to split the program into two courses.
“It was too much to cover in just one semester,” he explained.
Three planets - Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn - were out on Monday, and folks had the opportunity to look at them through the college’s telescopes.
“It was interesting,” said Vanessa Mock, 12, of Tunkhannock. “I really liked the part about the different telescopes, and how some of them were constructed.
Vanessa was with her father, Kevin Mock.
“It was great,” Mock said about the lecture. “I like to bring her here because Vanessa is really into this stuff.”