Orion 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars will be available for checkout at Upper St. Clair Township Library.

Last summer’s total solar eclipse spurred a sudden interest in astronomy for plenty of Pittsburgh-area residents and others along the prime viewing area.

To help patrons get a closer look at the wonders of the night sky, Upper St. Clair Township Library is making available for checkout a pair of Orion 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars, which provide a view comparable to a refractor telescope.

Kathy DeSantis, vice president of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh, will conduct a workshop from 7 to 9 p.m. June 7 at the library to provide an overview of how to use the binoculars for best effect, along with expert tips for stargazing. The winner of a free raffle will be the first patron to check the binoculars out for use.

The library purchased the binoculars through the generosity of township residents John and Karen Sechrist, who frequently donate books and other items. John said he read about Shaler North Hills Library acquiring a telescope for patrons to borrow.

“I thought, that’s kind of a neat idea,” he said. “And then I remembered going back when I was a kid, I had a small, cheap telescope, and I liked it. But because it was cheap it was hard to use.

“You’d think that you just look through the telescope and you see what you want to see,” he continued. “But in reality, it’s hard to find things. And the earth turns, and so you finally find what you’re looking for, and it moves out of your field of view. Especially for young people, it can be frustrating.”

When the Sechrists learned that DeSantis, who presented a pre-eclipse program for the library in August, recommended the purchase of binoculars, they decided to help.

“You don’t need a lot of money to get them, and you don’t need a lot of expertise to use them,” John explained. “So that motivated my wife and me to try to make it happen. I think Upper St. Clair folks will get a lot of enjoyment out of them.”

The binoculars will be available to township residents with library cards in good standing. They circulate for a one-week period and can be placed on hold but not renewed.

“It’s not like my wife and I are some special people who did a special thing for the library,” Sechrist said. “Anybody can do something for the library, whether it’s financial aid or giving their time or contributing ideas. Just patronizing the library does something for it.”

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Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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