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Leslie Peliter's Starlight Nights

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#1 Michael Rapp

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 10:05 PM

I just finished reading Leslie Peltier's Starlight Nights.

I really enjoyed this book. I knew nothing of the author prior to reading the book, save that I knew David Levy greatly admired him. I didn't even know what the book was going to be about, was it an autobiography, a treatise on astronomy, a mixture of the two?

As it turns out, the book is a delightful tale of the author's life and how it and his hobby of astronomy intersect.

In some sense the book really isn't about astronomy in the technical sense; indeed, Peltier never truly goes into much detail, but thematically there is much about the allure of observational astronomy and how he orients his life to it.

The book also (strongly in many cases) hints at a simpler, less stressful time. (Strangely enough, much of the book occurs during the two World Wars, but they never seem to intrude much, if it all. Perhaps this is what happens when "our only news of any outside happenings came to us on Wednesdays and on Saturdays in the four-sheet Delphos Courant.")

The book especially resonated with me as I have recently extracted myself from the Sirens of Imaging, in which I was far more engaged with the technology and the ego of attaining accolades than with the night sky itself. It is only recently that I have rediscovered the pure wonder and intense joy that is visual observational astronomy that I so loved when I was young.

Peltier's writing style is excellent and engaging. He has a way with words that kept me reading even during some of the farm-life topics which with I wasn't completely keenly interested.

If you've read the book, what were your impressions?

(The book is available online in a nice online reader at http://archive.org/s...#page/n0/mod... )

#2 okieav8r

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 10:19 PM

That is a great book. Leslie Peltier came to my attention when a former assistant/protege of his gave a talk about him at the Okie-Tex star party about 4 or 5 years ago. I eventually found a copy of Starlight Nights and found it to be a very enjoyable read.

#3 GeneT

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 10:23 PM

This is an excellent book. Many years ago it opened my eyes and mind to the beautiful night sky.

#4 TomCorbett

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 10:56 PM

Michael...

Thank you for an excellent review of a great book for amateur astronomers. Thank you also for the online link. I did my reading in the edition published by Sky Publishing.

What I liked about the book--and still do like about the book--is the deep and important personal level of star-gazing where Leslie Peltier brings the reader. Except for local astronomy clubs and star parties--amateur astronomy is basically a solitary hobby--a person and their instruments and personal interaction with the night sky. Leslie brings out for many of us, the importance of solitary interaction--learning the night sky, acquiring the equipment, configuring the instruments for specific targets and environments, keeping notebooks, and connecting (almost touching) the objects we observe so far away. Leslie Peltier taught us that observing is really interacting--not tracking, not capturing, not communicating--but interacting with the Universe. Yes, Leslie Peltier knew all of this and put it into writing to help himself, and to help us articulate to ourselves, as well as to our family and friends.

I never met Leslie Peltier, but something tells me he was a humble person, not pretentious, not self-aggrandizing.

#5 desertstars

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 11:24 PM

I'm a big fan of the naturalist/writer Edwin Way Teale, and in one of his "American Seasons" books he meets and befriends Peltier. Their first visit was clouded out, but Teale eventually got the chance to use the scope in Peltier's rotating observatory. The two became good friends and remained so to the end of their respective days.

Years later I recognized Peltier's name and picked up Starlight Nights. I read it, then immediately read it again, it took such a strong hold on me. The only other time I've had a book do that to me? North with the Spring by Edwin Way Teale.

#6 Rich (RLTYS)

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 05:27 AM

Read Starlight Nights numerous times. It should be required reading for all Astronomers.

Rich (RLTYS)

#7 edwincjones

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 05:42 AM

a classic

should be required reading for all amateur astronomers

edj

#8 droid

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 06:55 AM

I've had my copy for well over ten ears now, its worn, rag tag and yellowing, but still one of the best books I've read and reread countless times.
Every time I think my four inch isn't enough aperture, I reread the strawberry spyglass chapter, lol
Being from Ohio I was especially intrigued when I first got the book.
I think Ill need a new copy soon.

#9 jgraham

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 07:20 AM

Years ago we had a member in our local astronomy club who was a huge fan of Leslie Peltier. He collected various artifacts from his life and even visited his family and the site of his observatiory. He was shocked to find that Leslie Peltier's family had a very different view of his pation for his hobby. He was so pationate about amateur astronomy that he had no room in his life for anything else, including his family. He essentially abandoned them and after he passed they wanted nothing to do with the hobby or anything associated with it or his memory. This struck a chord with me and emphasized the need for balance between my own interests and the interests and needs of my wife and family.

#10 Rick Woods

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 12:21 PM

Wow! Now, there's a different perspective!

#11 amicus sidera

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 12:22 PM

Starlight Nights came to me many years ago, on the recommendation and high praise of some fellow club members; I purchased a copy and attempted to get through it several times, but something in it simply didn't resonate with me. I finally finished it, but the experience was not an enriching one; indeed, I found Peltier's writing strangely cold for someone who was purported to so love the stars.

Fred

#12 trw

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 01:12 PM

I've read and re-read Starlight Nights since it was first published, I think in 1965. It was in our school library, and from my entry into junior high in 1965 to my graduation from high school in 1971 I was the only one to ever take it out! I was somewhat fascinated by his "no visible means of support" lifestyle, but like John's observation, was always worried by the fact that the only nice thing he ever said about his wife was that she made good steaks! After moving to Ohio, I've always made a pilgramage out to the Copus monument when attending the Hidden Hollow star party, both out of interest in local history and it's connection to Peltier. I wonder if I'm the only one who does this since David Levy stopped attending. (Of course he may have stopped coming after I tried to kill him in traffic on the way to the monument, but that's another story I shall not repeat....)

#13 TomCorbett

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 01:52 PM

Hmmm...

The Toledo Blade newspaper published a story Small town to honor amateur astronomer by staff writer Steve Murphy (2003 Sept 19). The account in this newspaper article does not agree with the information reported above about the family and personal relationships of Leslie Peltier.

Another account about the positive relationships in Peltier's family is reported in this article published by the AAVSO -- Leslie C. Peltier.

Furthermore an interesting article about Peltier was written by Mike Simenson of AAVSO -- Leslie Peltier: The World's Greatest Amateur Astronomer.

Finally, I spoke by telephone with one of Leslie Peltier's adult children. We had a very positive conversation about what it was like growing up with Leslie Peltier.

*****

[EDIT COMMENT]

I have edited my second post in this thread. I do not think amateur astronomers should make a practice of speaking about the family and personal relationships of other amateur astronomers. Additionally, I think anyone making negative comments about the family and personal relationships of Leslie Peltier should be removed from any of the posts in this thread--either voluntarily by the authors of those posts or by a forum moderator. I have left the links to a published newspaper article and AAVSO information in my second post so readers of this thread can access factual information.


#14 Michael Rapp

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 05:11 PM

John, Fred, and trw bring up some interesting points.

The flip side to Peltier's passion for the stars it is that seems to be clear he was out there every clear night, with his over 132,000 variable star observations supporting this.

I think the question of balance is a fair one. Additionally, for me, what I am much in awe of (and jealous of) is that he never speaks of burnout or taking a break. I know that if I try to do astronomy every clear night, I'll start having nights where I notice that I feel compelled to take the scope out and observe so that I don't "waste" a clear night, even if I really don't feel like observing. (That is a key warning sign for me to take a break.)

I also noticed trw's point....there is very little text to describe how Peltier made a living. Part of this may contribute to the allure of the situation. He's on a farm which provides all of the essential needs. The outside world isn't necessary in some respects....it's just him and the sky. Later on, he does talk about working for a company in town, but it's vague. I gathered he was some form of a draftsman or engineer, but it is unclear to me.

Still, the story Peltier tells is captivating. To have such dark skies and the opportunity to enjoy them to that extent....I supposed there are worse things to be obsessed about.

#15 droid

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 09:33 PM

Ive always thought Id like to visit the Copus monument but alas so far haven't made it.

#16 jrbarnett

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 11:03 PM

Hmm...family and, for that matter,human relationships are...highly overrated. :grin:

- Jim

#17 bumm

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 11:58 PM

I read the book long ago... I enjoyed it, but wasn't wildly captivated. I saw it as the story of a simple life well lived, much of it under the stars.
One image that really stuck with me was his observation toward the end, comparing the view of the stars through the slit of his large observatory to his memory of the view through his grandmother's (or mother's?) kitchen window.

#18 TomCorbett

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 08:04 AM

I have edited my second post in this thread. I do not think amateur astronomers should make a practice of speaking about the family and personal relationships of other amateur astronomers. Additionally, I think anyone making negative comments about the family and personal relationships of Leslie Peltier should be removed from any of the posts in this thread--either voluntarily by the authors of those posts or by a forum moderator. I have left the links to a published newspaper article and AAVSO information in my second post so readers of this thread can access factual information.

#19 Tom Laskowski

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 09:19 AM

A number of years ago, me and some friends were on our way home from the Apollo Rendezvous in Dayton and we passed thru Delphos, OH. We stopped in the town to check the phone book to see if there was a way we could possibly find the house where Peltier once lived.

We ended up "discovering" the monument dedicated to him downtown (I think in front of the library) and also found an address for Peltier. Somehow we found the house pretty easily and saw the old observatories in the backyard.

There was a young woman working out in the yard, so we asked her if it was OK to take some photos of the observatory. She told us to just knock on the door and ask Mrs. Peltier, who still lived in the house, for permission to take photos. We told Mrs. Peltier who we were and without hesitation she invited us, a group of complete strangers, into her home then sat and talked with us for about a half-hour about Leslie, his observatories and his passion for astronomy.

I had read his book a number of times and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was very thrilled to be sitting in his living room. After a short visit with Mrs. Peltier, she reluctantly agreed to let us take some pictures of the now crumbling buildings.

A few years later I learned that his merry-go-round observatory was restored and relocated somewhere (possibly in John Bryan State Park).

Anyway, just reminiscing.

#20 Michael Rapp

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 09:49 AM

The Merry-Go-Round observatory struck me as somewhere between completely ludicrous and eminently practical. I found a story of its restoration and some photos of it here at the Miami Valley Astronomical Society's site: http://mvas.org/node/13

#21 LB16europe

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 11:30 AM

Another "Starlight Nights" fan here. I find Peltier's writing almost poetic, and he transmits his passion for astronomy, nature and country life in a beautiful way.

I liked John Graham's interesting comment and I don't think it was offensive and it shouldn't be deleted. John's post actually made me think how difficult it can be to keep our feet firmly on the ground and not let hobbies separate us excessively from "real life" (be it work, family or friends).

#22 droid

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 08:27 PM

Ok folks this an extremely good thread, lets keep it that way.

This is " Stellar Media " books ,videos, dvds etc.
Lets keep it on the book and please refrain from commenting on the mans personal life or what ever.
Stellar media is the nicest bunch of folks, cant remember the last time I had to do anything in this forum.

ok mod hat off.

#23 Starman1

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 12:13 AM

It is a book about a different time in America, and, as such, is enchanting.
We will never see that time, but it is fascinating to read about it, and Peltier's love of the stars. Passionate? You bet!
I pull this book out every few years to spend some moments with a different America than the one I've known--the same reason I pull out Abbey's "Desert Solitaire".
Just something quite peaceful in there.

#24 Lard Greystoke

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 12:56 AM

This is from decades ago, but I clearly recall hearing that Peltier designed children's furniture for a company in the area.

#25 trw

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 02:00 PM

Quite right, Greystoke. On thinking about it further, I recall that, while touring the southwest he was making some money by selling rare minerals--I think to Ward's Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, N.Y.!






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