The Stars: A Labor of Love

Much has been written about the quest for the outer planets and stars, even in this newsletter, particularly with the interest of people like Richard Branson, Paul Allen, and Jeff Bezos in making "spaceflight for the rest of us."

But there's an even easier way to participate - build your own starliner, like the former Buddhist monk John Dobson, who has dedicated his life to 'free' astronomy for all with his popularization of an easy-to-use telescope mount that even the pros adopted. Building your own telescope can be a great way to stay mentally focused and alert, plus, will give a great satisfaction compared with rushing down to the Discovery Channel Store and plunking down $1,000 to buy one. We've even developed our own unique design that's even easier to use - based on one bearing - and one day we will commercialize it, or we might just make it available for everyone as our gift, for free.

Edward R. Byers of Barstow, CA, even built a business out of quality astronomical instruments:

Barstow man reaches for the stars:Makes astronomy equipment for observatories, universities, NASA's JPL and other clients


BARSTOW - Edward R. Byers Co. is virtually unknown in Barstow, but its name is known worldwide in the astronomy business.

For more than four decades, Ed Byers has been operating his company in the Barstow area, manufacturing astronomical equipment like telescopes for observatories, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, universities and other clients.

What's kept him in the business is his love for astronomy, he said.

"The main thing astronomy teaches us is how insignificant the earth is," he said. "If you haven't learned that, you don't know anything about astronomy."

Byers will soon indulge his passion for astronomy in a massive telescope he built for himself, which will be complete as soon as an outside company installs the optics.

A longtime astronomy fan, Byers enjoys staying abreast of developments and news in the field.

"The last four or five years, they've made great breakthroughs," he said.

His wife, Sharyn Byers, also gets excited when she talks about the business they're in.

"It's very interesting - I'm proud of Ed's work," she said.

What's amazing, she said, is how precise the company's instruments are, and how pieces of metal can be turned into amazing machines.

"To me, they're like sculptures, works of art," she said.

Because Edward R. Byers Co. doesn't sell anything to the local community, the company's low profile doesn't bother the businessman.

"You can call any college and talk to the astronomy professor and ask him who Ed Byers is, and he'll tell you," he said. "We have a little niche."

And "in the astronomy business, everyone knows what a Byers mounting is," he said.

Byers, 77, said he's been slowing down as he gets older, and he's now the only employee of the company that once had seven staff members. Although his wife handles bookkeeping and other business, he is now the only one working with the equipment.

These days, he said he only takes on projects that interest him.

"I really don't go out beating the bushes for work," he said.

He expects to retire eventually, but he's not looking forward to it.

"If my health keeps up, I'll keep going until I can't any longer," he said. "Otherwise, I'll have to watch television all the time, and I don't really enjoy that."

The company makes the mountings, gears and other parts for the telescopes, but it gets the optics and electronics like micro-computers from other companies.

Byers also make heliostats - instruments used to study the sun

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