“One morning I woke up about four o’clock to go to the bathroom, and I walk outside, and the sun had started coming up and it obliterated all of the stars behind it, and it almost looked like somebody had poked those three little stars to go across the belt,” Barbara Freedman said about seeing Orion’s Belt from the balcony of her home in Wintergreen. “There it was, there were only about a dozen stars there, and it was just an unbelievable sight.”
Freedman finds delight in studying the wonders of the night sky and was first influenced by her late husband’s love for astronomy.
“My husband was something of an astronomy buff,” Freedman said. “When we lived in Montgomery, Alabama my husband used to take out the telescope and all the kids in the neighborhood would show up, and he would be pointing out the different planets and everything.”
Freedman’s husband was a fighter pilot and a writer and served in World War II and Korea.
After her husband’s death, Freedman was invited to visit Korea and write a report for her study group, Great Decisions.
“They had given me three books, two of the 50 wonders of Korea, and another put out on UNESCO, and I had never read them until I started doing this report,” Freedman said. “Come to find out they were record-keepers of the world. And one of the things they qualified in was astronomy.”
Freedman continued to experience bizarre coincidences that finally led her to want to start an Astronomy Club at Falcons Landing.
“My father was in World War I, and he had a brother, Howard, that was killed next to him in one of those trenches,” Freedman said. “We took care of my father towards the end of his days and I started emptying out the attic and brought things here, and I was going through them and all of a sudden I found Howard’s death certificate, a picture of his grave site and a picture of the cemetery. What I didn’t know was that he had been married, and I was able to track down his son, my nephew, and of all things, he is the illustrator for Sky and Telescope Magazine.”
Freedman was astounded to find that astronomy was woven so deeply into her life.
“Every experience you have leads to another experience, that leads to another experience,” she said. “It just all came together and it just seemed like I was supposed to start an astronomy club, and I asked around and people seemed to be interested in it.”
Fifteen residents have already signed up for the Astronomy Club.
Although Freedman proclaims to know little about astronomy, her passion for learning has never faded. She spent most of her life taking night classes and got her teaching certificate by the time her daughter went to college. At age 51, Freedman received her Master’s degree.
“I like to study, and I am going to be learning a lot,” she said.
Freedman plans to use a wide range of learning tools to develop a better understanding of astronomy during each club meeting. These resources include the Sky and Telescope Magazine, The DVD series “Our Night Sky” by the University of Virginia Professor, Edward M. Murphy, as well as a two-sided Planisphere, which shows the configurations of the planets and locations of certain stars. Freedman is also on the lookout for a telescope that the club could use.
“I want to have fun,” Freedman said. “I want to go out and look at the moon every night for a month and just do the fun things that go along with it.”
The Astronomy Club will meet the second Wednesday of every month, and the first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room.