On display in resident Donald Altrichter’s living room is a large telescope — a gift from his son — that aims out the window toward the wonders of the sky. The winter’s cold weather has kept him and his wife, Jeanette, from journeying outside to stargaze, but it hasn’t kept Donald from learning more about astronomy.

Astronomy has been a long-standing interest for Donald, stemming as far back as his Boy Scout days when he earned an astronomy merit badge. He is always looking for new opportunities to continue expanding his knowledge on topics that interest him.

The couple made the move to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown in February 2018. When Donald learned there wasn’t an Astronomy Club on campus, he was interested in starting one himself. He consulted with Masonic Village recreation staff and rounded up a handful of residents. The new Astronomy Club held its first meeting in November 2018.

“While I don’t have the astronomy knowledge that some of the club members have, that was the reason why I wanted to get the club going — to have access to more knowledge,” Donald said.

The Astronomy Club meets the second Monday of every month at 7 p.m. in the Clubhouse’s James Buchanan All Purpose Room. Around 10 members attend the club’s monthly meetings, but Donald hopes that curious residents will soon fill more seats.

Resident Bill Decker is a member of the Astronomy Club. He studied solar radio astronomy at Penn State University during his undergraduate and graduate degrees and now brings his knowledge and experiences to the group.

Having Bill and other residents with expertise as active members has helped guide the Astronomy Club’s discussions. One thing often leads to another during meetings. Donald tries to use club members’ questions and interests as talking points for upcoming meetings so that the materials are always fresh and relevant.

Some topics that the club has covered so far include how to locate stars and constellations and how to utilize tools such as binoculars or telescopes for better viewing.

However, the best way to learn about astronomy is looking up at the night sky. When the weather turns warmer, Donald hopes to get the club members outside to observe the stars with their own eyes.

“You have to find an area where there isn’t a lot of light. Someone suggested we go to the fields behind the Farm Market, so we might try that spot out,” Donald said. “I want everyone to look up at the night sky and say, ‘Oh my, I didn’t realize there were that many stars.’”

Molly Foster

About the author: Molly Foster, a senior from Shippensburg University, was a public relations associate at Masonic Villages.