|Discovering the Cosmos
by Clare Coppa
Most astral phenomena cant be seen without a telescope. Exposed
to dramatic images of the cosmos as a child, ASTM member John
Lentini landed two telescope observatories for the Boy Scouts
of America in Atlanta, Ga. With the assistance of the Atlanta
Astronomy Club which shares and helped fund the sites, Lentini
orchestrated the placement of observatories at the scouts Woodruff
and Bert Adams camps.
Woodruff has a 24 in. [610 mm] telescope. Weve seen all kinds
of interesting things, Lentini said. The Whirlpool Galaxy is
fun. Thats one galaxy thats eating up another one near the handle
of the Big Dipper. Its very pretty. Its two spiral galaxies
that happen to be face-on to the earth, so that when we look at
them we can actually see the spiral structure. The Orion Nebula
can be seen with this lens. The middle star in the sword is actually
not a star but a nebula. Its a nursery for baby stars. You can
look into that and see the stars being born.
A volunteer for Troop 1011, Lentini became interested in astronomy
as a scout and later with the Atlanta Astronomy Club. When his
son Jerald joined the scouts in 1993, Lentini jump-started a tepid
astronomy program by bringing his 4.5 in. [114 mm] telescope on
You might say the program has grown. There are about 50,000 boy
scouts all together from metro Atlanta that have access to those
camps. Then we have people coming from around the country. In
fact, this summer we had some scouts from England who came up
to the Woodruff reservation.
We look at the usual crowd pleasers, he noted, saying they search
for the 110 objects catalogued by Charles Messier. Theyre some
of the prettiest objects in the sky. They include galaxies, nebulae
and globular clusters, which are some of the oldest star formulations
in our galaxy. Hands down, the scouts favorites are Jupiter
and Saturn. Through the 8-in. [200 mm] telescope at the Bert Adams
observatory, Jupiter appears about a quarter of an inch [6 mm]
in diameter. They followed the Hale-Bopp comet in 1997 which Lentini
described as awesome.
When not behind the telescope, Lentini manages a fire investigation
and forensics lab for Applied Technical Services, Marietta, Ga.
He developed standards on fire-debris analysis with ASTM Committee
E30 on Forensic Sciences that were mentioned in a 1999 U.S. Department
of Justice report, Forensic Sciences: Review of Status and Needs,
identifying ways to meet forensic challenges.
As an amateur astronomer, Lentinis focus is on enjoyment and
public outreach. Most kids these days dont have a clue what
the Milky Way is, particularly if they live in metro areas, he
said. Most people growing up today dont ever have a chance to
appreciate whats up there in the sky.
Lentini and his son, Jerald.
Copyright 2001, ASTM