The Skyland Stargazers were formed out of the need to have a fall back club in place incase the Morris Museum Astronomical Society folded. In the Winter\Spring of 1990 the MMAS was in the midst of many disagreements with The Morris Museum. The MMAS observatory had been torn down and a planned replacement was canceled. The Director of the Museum also had no want or need for the group and many road blocks were put up to impede the clubs activities. After meeting with the Museum staff and Director the overall mood of the board of directors became disparaging. It was then decided that a small group of dedicated members from the MMAS would form an off shoot or sister club to the MMAS. The primary purpose of this group was to insure that if the MMAS were to disband that people from the that club would have a place to go and that the equipment owned by the club would not sit in a closet or be lost by the Museum.
The Skyland Stargazers were formed in the Fall of 1990 with a simple Constitution. Our subsequent meetings were held bi-monthly at Roned Printing and Marketing in East Hanover. One of the first goals put forth was the establishment of a bank account and a way to raise money. A suggestion was put forth by Anthony Pisano and Irfan Bora that the club obtain and sell astronomical shareware through the Starry Messenger (a small want ad booklet published monthly for anything astronomical). The Starry Messenger had a subscription base that spanned the world and the fact that the ad price was only a couple of dollars as compared to the major magazines (Astronomy and Sky & Tel.) this seemed like the best place to advertise. Ron Russo thought that this idea was never going to pan out. But, we proceeded with the idea. We made up a small ten page catalog and placed our ad. With our fist ad placed in the Starry Messenger we just waited for the orders to roll in. Then a funny thing happened, the orders did roll in. Keep in mind, this was before the internet existed. The only way to get software in those days was to call into a BBS, go to a computer show, buy retail, or trade with a friend. We were only selling small shareware computer programs that would fit onto a single 3.5" disk. In the end we made a couple of hundred dollar selling these programs at $4 - $12 a piece. In time the sales of our software dwindled down. However, we had made a small amount of money and opened an account for our treasury.
It was suggested that we build a telescope as a club project. Members of the MMAS had been working on a small 5" mirror. While working on the smaller mirror a speaker had given a presentation on a scope that he had built. The scope's main mirror had been purchased at Colter as a "second". The term "second" meant that there was some defect in the mirror that did not allow the company to sell it as first quality. This drastically reduced the price. The mirror in fact did not have anything wrong with it except a small chip on the extreme edge of the mirror, no bigger that the edge of a finger nail. This in no way effected the way the mirror worked. A hell of a bargain! It was planed that the money raised in the software sale would pay for the scope. The mirror even though a second would still have wiped out the account. Generous donations were made and the mirror was purchased from Colter (now out of business and bought out by another company which has kept the name). The primary mirror and secondary mirror took no less than one and a half years to arrive. In this time many ideas were kicked around as to what kind of scope and how to transport it. Finally an idea of a Dobsonian telescope on a wheeled mount (for transportation) was decided upon. Many different designs for this wheeled wonder were kicked around and around and around and around.
The year is now 1995. Things have begun to look up for MMAS. The director of the Museum who caused caused all the strife between the club and the institution had been given his walking papers. The Museum was in quite bad financial shape after the past administration. A new director was named to the Museum along with the hiring of an almost completely new staff. The MMAS became involved in the establishment and setup of the UACNJ. After the state organization was established the SSG were asked to join as a charter club. A year later, the member clubs of the UACNJ voted to build observatories for each to the clubs that could raise the funds to build them. The pads for the five observatories was poured in the Spring of 1997. The SSG observatory pad then sat untouched for one year. Anthony Pisano and Dave Henderson began the work on the observatory in the Spring of 1998. They constructed the sill that the observatory on a cold day in April. Plans were the drawn (and modified many times) for the construction of the club observatories. The SSG observatory was constructed in Anthony Pisano's garage in Boonton instead of onsite at UACNJ. The construction of the different pieces took a total of five working sessions (Monday nights) over the months of July and August of 1999.
In late September of 1999 a work session at UACNJ was scheduled to bring all of the prefabricated pieces of the observatory from Boonton to Hope. Many were in attendance. The list included Dave Henderson, Anthony Pisano, Ted Barker, Rich Gains, Ron Thorn, Ron Russo, and Joe Molnar. Over the course of two days the observatory was raised. Some modification had to be made to the structure on site, but these were for the better. The observatory was left 85% completed as the turn of the millennium approached.
In the Spring of 2000 it was told to us that the state park was not pleased with the construction of the SSG observatory because of the material that we chose to build the roof out of (we followed the blue prints and they had a problem with it). The state park also had a problem with the pitch and height of the roof. This decree came down from the top the the roof of the observatory had to be changed. After much grumbling and protests a work session was scheduled for the early Summer of 2000 to make the modifications. The roof pitch was changed in one Saturday work session. As for the unused mirror that is still sitting in a box, it was decided that the telescope building project would be shelved until the observatory was completed.