Volunteers of the Year for 2024 are the Astronomy Cohorts

This year we honor an important group that has made a huge impact both locally and regionally. The Astronomy Cohorts along with our Board Director and Treasurer, Alan Sheiness, have created a fantastic program that informs and inspires people about the wonders of the night sky.

Our first-ever astronomy event was held in Pleasant Valley Preserve, with Alan giving a short sky tour followed by views of planets and other objects in two of his telescopes. A good-sized crowd huddled around the eyepieces for two hours.

One person in particular was at Alan’s side from the beginning to the end: Scott Mallory. And so, a thought came about: we could do this again and have help.

We then headed over to Alan’s field where he discussed the idea of observing sessions where parking was close and the sky was wide open – a dark sky site!

That first event and the chance encounter between Alan and Scott has grown into a mature program with up to ten cohorts who bring their telescopes and experience to our Lyme dark skies monthly. At Trail 53, we start with a short talk and guided tour of that night’s sky, and then the telescopes are expertly pointed to our bright and faint cosmic neighbors. People mill around from telescope to telescope and see the wonders of our universe with their own eyes. The cohorts also assist with public talks and other special events sprinkled throughout the year.

The first four of those cohorts were Scott Mallory from that very first night, and then Jon Dean, Roger Charbonneau and Parag Sahasrabudhe.

Each one of them heard a snippet of a new astronomy-something happening in town, and each one of them got in contact with Alan and was invited to walk to a small cut-out in an isolated field, and by Alan’s account, each one was hooked by the end of that walk.

Ever since they have been instrumental in staffing observing events and public talks. When the program showed signs of being an ongoing hit, they helped walk off the site for a permanent observatory, and they took turns mixing the cement that went into the footings and piers that hold up the structure and the main telescope. We have a web page and online sign up that is exclusively for the Trail 53 observing sessions.

They have shared their passion and their knowledge of the universe from our program’s very first days right through last month’s public session. Our program would not be where it is today without them.

Volunteer of the Year 2024
Photo – L-R: Roger Charbonneau, Parag Sahasrabudhe, Scott Mallory and Jon Dean. Seated: Alan Sheiness.