Checking out the sky

When I borrow the Mineral Point Public Library’s telescope it is a 60-degree day with nighttime lows in the cool, but manageable, 40s. When I actually use the telescope there is snow on the ground and it is 27 degrees. But more about that later.

First, the telescope. Last year the Iowa County Astronomers donated a telescope to Mineral Point’s library. The club’s John Wunderlin got the idea for the library loan program from the New Hampshire Astronomical Society. “As far as I know, we’re the first library in Wisconsin to do this,” John says.

telescopeBefore you take the telescope home, the librarian will give you a short lesson on how to operate it. Then you strap it into your backseat just like you would a two-year-old and you are on your way to exploring the night sky. Library patrons must be 16 years old to borrow the telescope, and the loan is for one week.

Excited about the night ahead, I ask John about his stargazing experiences. John – a High Street Beat contributor on all things celestial –  recalls some standout night sights. During the 2010 Mifflin Meteor he “happened to be outside in Madison … Even from Madison, the entire sky turned blue like daylight for a couple of seconds. I saw the meteor directly and it was like a welding torch. It actually hurt my eyes to look directly at it. It went across the sky and then broke up into dozens of pieces. Amazing!”

John also recalls dramatic evenings watching the northern lights. “On one occasion I saw ‘blobs’ of lights building in the sky. It looked like a green and blue glowing anthill being built in fast-forward motion. On another occasion, faint green waves were racing across the entire sky from my house here in town.” Read John’s post about how to sign up for the Iowa County Aurora Alert system.

Now it is my turn to watch. April 15 was the first in a series of four lunar eclipses over the next two years. NASA has a pretty cool video explaining lunar eclipses.

Here’s how it went at our house:


Bill Webb took these photos of the April 15 lunar eclipse with his iPhone through the telescope. Hey, you use what you got!

11 p.m.: I set up the telescope in my (warm) hallway, trained on the sky where I thought the moon would be disappearing at 1 a.m. and went to sleep. This is me stargazing, glamp-style.

1 a.m.: My husband wakes me, we spend five minutes trying to focus on the moon through a dirty window, screen and tree branches.

1:15 a.m.: We are now set up outside. After nights of rain, snow and limb-snapping wind, the still clear night is perfect for observing the sky. Except for the bitter cold, that is. The sky is spectacular. Just to the right of the moon is Mars. According to John, Mars is “currently at opposition, which means it’s as close to the moon as it’s going to get.” Like the northern lights, you don’t have to have a telescope to observe the lunar eclipse, but without it you can’t see the details of the moon’s gray, cratered surface.

1:30 a.m.: As we watch the moon darken, we decide to rouse the kids. One by one I wake them up, point out the window toward the half-moon, explain that just 30 minutes ago it was completely full, and ask them if they want to go outside and look at it through the telescope. One by one they rub their eyes, stare up at the sky for a few seconds, and decline the offer.

2 a.m.: The moon has all but vanished. The last viewable eclipse here was in 2011, and the next one will be in October. We try to enjoy it, but we are cold. In our frozen delirium we sing a few lines of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” The neighbor’s dog barks. We decide it’s time to pack it in for the night.

6:45 a.m.: The kids ask “Why didn’t you wake us up for the eclipse?” We promise them we will borrow the telescope again, when spring has finally arrived for good.

– Contributed by Susan Webb

The Mineral Point Public Library will sponsor an astronomy event this summer. Check their website and follow their Facebook page for updates on the event.


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Happy National Grilled Cheese Day!

Not only is April National Grilled Cheese Month, but today is National Grilled Cheese Day!  One way to celebrate is to sign up to compete in the Third Annual Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Competition, scheduled to take place Sunday April 27, 2014, in Dodgeville.  (How this competition moved from Mineral Point to Dodgeville, I do not know, but I’m sure that in time we will forgive this decision, just as we have with other such incidents.)

Here are a few things to know about this year’s competition:

  • 1962825_652101304844062_669107190_nYou have until April 24th to sign up to compete.  Click here to register.
  • You can sign up online to get VIP tickets, which will allow you to try sample sandwiches during the competition.
  • This year’s host will be Wisconsin Foodie Kyle Cherek.
  • From 1-3pm Mineral Point’s own Point Five will be playing at the event.

I will be competing again this year.  For the last two years I have received a second place finish in amateur grilled cheese competition. This year, I’m stepping it up by preparing two whole weeks in advance.

Last night, we were invited to attend a grilled cheese practice session at the home of friend and fellow competitor, Dave Lawson.  Actually Dave and I are in different categories so we’re not really competing.  Dave will be in the “extras” category which has no limit to the number of ingredients, so long as 60% of the grilled cheese is made up of cheese.  I’ll be competing in three categories – Classic (just one cheese), Classic plus one other ingredient, and Dessert (any number of ingredients so long as 60% is cheese).

The evening began with a gathering of the cheeses.


Then Dave dazzled us all with his creativity. I don’t want to reveal his plans for the competition, but each one had a theme and a complex list of ingredients. We rated the grilled cheeses to give Dave some feedback.  Almost all of the feedback was positive.  Posted below is the one exception.


I received some excellent ideas on how to sweeten my dessert entry. This week I’ll be experimenting with Pop Rocks to see if I can incorporate them into the grilled cheese without having them pop. I’ll keep you posted.

Contributed by Lisa Hay

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Weekend of Treasure

Treasures abound this weekend in Mineral Point!  With so much bargain loot, you’ll feel like a pirate!

photo-12The 24th Annual City-Wide Garage Sale, is already underway.  You can either randomly troll through town looking for the blue balloons at participating residents or click here to download the coveted map and organize your plan of attack.  Back when the city-wide garage sales first began, the map was nothing more than the Red Rooster placemat with dots added.  The current map is so popular that the Chamber of Commerce announced on Facebook that they had over 568 views after posting it on their  website.

MPVG_cover.14MPVG_bc.14The Friday music tradition continues with a Rick Harris Concert at the Gray Dog Deli.  Rick has been featured on High Street Beat several times, both for his music and his art.  This multi-talented fellow is responsible for the cover and backside of this year’s visitor guide!

Wantoot Exhibit

Wantoot Exhibit

Saturday head to the Wantoot Gallery for Slow Art Day.  Think of Wantoot as a modern art museum right in the middle of town.  Even if you’re not in the market for a fantastic painting of junk food, you are welcome to come in and look.  It’s fun in there!  Right now there are several wonderful installations, including one of ceramic penguins flying a drone by Bruce Howdle protege Ash Kyrie.  For more about how Slow Art Day works, here’s a link to our post on the subject from last year.   The exhibits are different from last year, but the concept remains the same.

For the kids, the place to be this Saturday is Sandstone Nursery (formerly Terrill’s).  They will have live baby animals from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Saturday April 12th) and an Easter Egg hunt at 1 p.m..  Incidentally, it’s a great way to see all the trees and shrubbery for sale at Sandstone.  (Note:  There’s another Easter Egg hunt a week later at the Mineral Point Care Center.)

10153172_10153995949855716_3985409327375126072_nLast but certainly not least, is the Annual Gala to Benefit the Community Connections Free Clinic on Saturday night.   This year’s auction is loaded with treasure including original pieces of art, fun dinners, an exclusive cheese tour, and exciting get-aways including a trip to Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende (the Mineral Point of Mexico).  Click here for a list of the auction items.  This event (which includes an admission price of $30 in advance, $35 at the door) raises approximately 1/4 of the funds needed to run this vital clinic.  For more about the Free Clinic, check out this youtube video.

So, if you’re a pirate looking for treasure come to Mineral Point this weekend!  Rooms are still available.

- Contributed by the Hays

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Gallery All Day

This gallery contains 12 photos.

I don’t know why they call it Gallery Night, since it really goes all day. If you head up to High Street right now, you’ll find most galleries are already in full swing.  By starting your gallery prowl early, you … Continue reading

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Gospel Sing At Cowboy Country Church Tonight

shapeimage_1-1Set on a bluff overlooking the winding Pecatonica River, a big, red barn can be seen for miles around. That big, red barn has become a Mineral Point landmark, the Cowboy Country Church (CCC).

With its lush, rolling acreage, horse arena and facilities, the property, which was built in 2009, has become a popular destination for horse lovers. And what would any self-respecting, horse loving, cowboy or cowgirl be, without a song in their hearts?

Tonight (Saturday, March 29 from 6.30pm-8.30pm) CCC presents their 3rd annual Gospel Sing Concert.
ACOUSTIC COWBOYS-filteredFine voices, Americana, blues, old-timey country and great Gospel music, the show features the Acoustic Cowboys, Tom Hackl, the Cowboy Country Church Band and special surprise musical guests. Suitable for all ages, everyone is welcome. Light refreshments will be served and entry is free.

For information and enquiries, go to:
Cowboy Country Church: 1200 Betty Lane, Mineral Point.

Contributed by Lily Bragge

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