Dr. Charles Orth practices a fulfilled general orthopedic practice in Blue Springs, MO (Kansas City) where he is also orthopedic residency Program Director at St. Mary’s Medical Center. He attended the University of Health Sciences of Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his orthopedic residency at the Kansas City program.
Dr. Orth is married, his beautiful wife is a practicing family physician and Program Director as well for a family practice residency in Kansas City and has two sons, ages 26 and 24 living in Chicago and Kansas City. Dr. Orth currently serves as a Director on the AOAO Board.
Steve Heithoff (SH): How did you get interested in astronomy?
Chuck Orth (CO): I began astronomy by getting a four-inch refractor telescope for my inquisitive son in 2002. We would look at the usual things, moon and planets. The next year my brother and I really got interested in astronomy and purchased the larger six and 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes.
SH: What kind of objects can you see?
CO: We would do family astronomy nights and neighborhood astronomy camp outs looking at planets, galaxies, nebulas, constellations, comets, eclipses (lunar and solar), mostly the Messier catalog of interesting objects.
SH: How have you gotten involved with astronomy?
CO: I began teaching astronomy to our Boy Scout Troop, and at our 10 day, 3,000-member camps, I would bring the scope along for anyone interested and, believe me, the kids were. I am a member of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City (ASKC), whose goal is to educate the public and do research. Many groups will come to the Powell & Warko Observatories as the larger scopes are used with tutors to let people understand and explore the sky. There are many different scopes open for the public including a 30-foot reflector.
SH: Tell us about your equipment.
CO: My own scope sizes include 4, 6, and 11-inch, and I use 144X binoculars as well. I have access to computer aided photography and my own camera-telescope mounted photography. I have many interesting photos of comets, nebulas, galaxies, and our own planets Saturn and Jupiter with their moons. I will use various filters to image difficult objects especially nebulas and the sun.
SH: Is there a particularly interesting aspect you have witnessed?
CO: Watching a planet in transition across the sun is interesting as you realize how massive that sun truly is in comparison to a planet. Another stunning site in 2017 was the total solar eclipse where I and others saw the solar flares in living motion.
SH: How has astronomy affected your life?
CO: I like to share my passion with anyone willing to look, as you can see my scope on the driveway, backyard, at a lake, or at a campout. I’ve taken my scope across the country so other family members can experience the night sky as well. I have at times bought telescopes for graduating residents to share with their families the beautiful night sky. Astronomy makes me appreciate the fascination of nature and physics, and I love having others experience this as well.
SH: Have you seen anything cool lately?
CO: A recent adventure was the 2017 total solar eclipse in Kansas City where my son and I drove to our friend’s house only to find clouds, so we got into the car and drove south, pulled over in a closed restaurant parking lot, set up the scope and camera only to find many new friends coming over to look. Just to see the awe and happiness in adults and children and hearing the cheers made this an unforgettable day.
SH: Isn’t it difficult to see in the night sky with so much ambient city light?
CO: Even in lightly polluted city areas, a short one hour drive may allow you the opportunity to see interesting things like constellations which you can point out and share with family. A good starting book is Backyard Astronomer’s Guide. My only criteria for observation is a clear night, and a chair. I hope this article finds you looking up in the future; the night sky is a canvas waiting for you to explore.
SH: Any last words of astronomy wisdom?
CO: My goal is to have people never forget to look up at night, as there are wonders out there. If you have never seen Saturn’s rings, a nebula, or a galaxy, once you do, you will be hooked. This world to a scientific mind is just the direct opposite of looking through a microscope. It is good to understand what is around us, and how we are a part of earth and the universe. Even if you are not scientific, observing through a telescope is a treat. You don’t need much to begin: a good binocular, or cheap “go to“ scope is around $300. It’s all there for you – just look up!