Dedication Albert L. Ruppel Observatory  People often ask me, "How did you get interested in astronomy?" For a long time I always answered this question by responding that I have been interested in the stars ever since I was a kid. Recently, I asked myself this question, and began thinking back about how I really became interested in astronomy.

    My earliest recollection of looking up at the stars was the summer of 1958. In October of 1957, the USSR launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I. The US followed a few months later with Explorers I and II, and Vanguard I. My memories go back to a midsummer barbecue with the family and friends that summer of 1958. Everyone was sitting around in lawn chairs late in the evening, when my father pointed up and said, "Look, there's a satellite!" Everyone looked up, asking where it was, and my father responded, "It's the one that's moving past the Summer Triangle". We watched until it disappeared, but I remember asking my dad, "What's the Summer Triangle?" He explained that it was formed by three navigational stars, Vega, Deneb, and Altair. He told me that he had learned the names when he was being taught to navigate as a naval aviator. I remember asking about some other bright stars and he knew the names of most of them. By 1960 the space race was on with the first manned flights and everyone began looking up at the stars. By then I already had learned the names of the constellations and the brightest stars, thanks to my father.

    About this same time I decided I needed a telescope. Working for an entire summer I saved up $200, which left me about $215 short of what I needed for 4.25 inch reflector. My dad talked to my grandfather and convinced him to make up the difference, so after a long wait the telescope arrived. I quickly became familiar with the telescope and decided I needed a permanent mounting in the yard. I talked my father into pouring a concrete pillar at the edge of the front yard. I spent many nights with my first telescope bolted to that pillar. Little did I realize that this interest would stick with me for the rest of my life.

    Today we are gathered here to dedicate this observatory. This small building and the telescope it houses are the latest step along my journey, the same journey I started back in 1958. Al Kelly, a prominent amateur astronomer, describes the journey this way:

" ... it has all been in the same pursuit I started at age 12: to see deeper and better into the night and to capture part of it. I think this is the primary common pursuit of astronomers, particularly amateur astronomers, who are involved for the simple love of the subject.
   CCD imaging has now become a mainstay for many of us who are continuing the pursuits of our youth. It is delightful in its concatenation of the most modern technology with the ancient and simple principles of capturing part of the night sky for closer inspection. Those principles have always been to use a clear, dark, steady sky, to make your eyes as sensitive as possible; to look carefully and effectively at an area of interest; and to record what has been seen as faithfully as possible. For millennia astronomers used their eyes, their memories, and their stones or papyrus. Over a few short decades, our eyes have become giant slabs of delicately hewn glass, our attention has become riveted by intricate guiding mechanisms, and our memories have been etched on fine-grain films and computer hardware. Only the cosmos is essentially unchanged."

    This observatory has three simple purposes, and I would like to share them with you:

  1. To promote interest in the science of astronomy, especially for our children, and their children.

  2. To stimulate questions in everyone who visits here about the nature of the universe - how big is it? where did it come from? why does it appear the way it does?

  3. To record some small parts of the night sky, to look for changes in a largely unchanging universe.

    Every observatory has to have a name. Please join me in honoring the individual who really did get me interested in astronomy. Not only did he teach me the names of the stars in the Summer Triangle, he showed me a few other things along the way. I humbly dedicate this observatory to my father, Albert L. Ruppel.

July 5, 1998
Ellisville, Missouri