Bob Keyser: No Clouds

Hope the astronomers out there got their Christmas telescope and have begun the process of learning how to use it!

The bane of our hobby, OK, obsession, is the cloud. Well, if we happen to own a massive radio telescope not so much – they see through clouds. But who has the space for a 100-foot diameter dish in their yard? Astronomy should be a synonym for patience. Seems as soon as you get a telescope or accessory for your telescope the sky clouds up for the next month! Patience. Read your owner’s manual. Go online and join astronomy groups to find out more about it too. Chill. The sky will clear.

Maybe the one member of our New Braunfels Astronomy Club who found more ways to deal with cloudy weather was Bob Keyser. Unfortunately, we lost Bob recently and miss him greatly.

Bob was an early member of the club, not quite in the founder’s group with Larry Pratt, but Bob joined early on and added his expertise to the club’s knowledge base.

Bob was one of the first members I met when I joined around 9 years ago. He would probably know that more exactly. That was Bob.

Bob was a regular, what I would call a sustaining member of the club. His contributions during meetings sustained us more than the burgers we chomped. He always had, if not an answer, at least a logical position. Everyone respected that.

To inject energy into our meetings, Bob would announce and give a presentation that challenged us. A challenge not necessarily within the astronomy realm. Bob wasn’t afraid to tackle the paranormal. He once gave us  a presentation on Marfa Lights, and it was a detailed examination done by another investigator, using sophisticated (for its time) video equipment. After that impressive presentation we discussed potential causes and Bob of course, logically summarized it as “still unknown”.

Then Bob, in another presentation, dissected the Drake Equation. The Drake Equation is a formula, developed in 1961 by Frank Drake, intended as a stimulus for conversation during the first SETI conference. It has since become the model for assessing the possibility of extraterrestrial civilizations. Bob didn’t hold back, he saw and pointed out that there are too many empty values in the formula to even make an educated guess.

Bob made these fascinating presentations on cloudy days, and he had more.  I found out a few years ago when I asked if he might have something to present on Astronomy Night in case of clouds. Bob sent me a list, a list of 20 presentations, and he even had them ranked in terms of general interest!

Bob didn’t let a few clouds bother him. He exploited cloud time to expand his astronomy horizon, and by doing this he expanded our club’s horizon.

Bob was a sustainer. His horizon is now infinite.

What’s in the Sky?

The January 13 Astronomy Night at Tye Preston Memorial Library will be dedicated to the memory of Bob Keyser. Trisha Stevens’ generous donation of Bob’s equipment will be honored by the library and astronomy club, dedicating the main telescope with a metal plaque made by Bob’s grandson, John Mark.