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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Stephen Ramsden’s Traveling Sun Show

By Phil Plait

I was puttering around online and happened across something that made me quite happy: CNN put out a short video about my pal Stephen Ramsden. He’s a former air traffic controller who travels around with a very, very impressive array of solar telescopes, teaching kids about the Sun.


I met Steve many years ago and was taken right away with his dedication and enthusiasm for teaching. He’s a natural. That video came out last year, but he’s still out there, going from school to school and showing children sunspots, solar flares, prominences, and more. He’s an inspiration.

And not to put too fine a point on it, he takes donations, too (there’s a “donate” button on his Web page). He’s doing a fundraiser right now, and if you donate $100 or more, you’ll get entered to win a Lunt LS80 B1200 solar telescope, and I’ll be honest: I have serious lust for this ‘scope. Happily, I have my own smaller version, so I’m OK. But geez, that’s a sweet machine. And not only that, Ramsden is also raffling off a pair of 8 x 32 Lunt SUNoculars every Friday until Oct. 30 to a donor of any amount.

If you prefer to buy stuff, one of his sponsors, Rainbow Symophony, sells safe solar observing glasses; I have several pair myself and I use them all the time. Stephen doesn't make money from those sales (in fact he gives away glasses for free to anyone who asks if they use them for outreach), but it helps his sponsor so that's agood thing. Come to think of it, I bet such things will be in short supply soon as the Great 2017 Solar Eclipse approaches. You might want to pick up some now. He has other swag, too (again, he doesn't make money for those sales; he does that at cost so others doing outreach can have the same shirts he wears). But donations are best!

He’s doing good work, and I hope he continues to do so for a long, long time.

Correction, Oct. 6, 2015: I originally wrote that the sales of glasses and swag support Stephen, but he sent me a note reflecting the text above.

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