History of the ASKC
The beginnings of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City (ASKC), as currently known, date back to the early 1920s. Historical records show that a meeting took place on November 23, 1924 at the Gordon Place Methodist Church where club President Dr. E.G. Davis addressed an audience of about 200 on "An Evening with the Stars.”
In the early 1930s, the club had been renamed to the Heart of America Amateur Astronomers. On Nov. 12, 1933, a Kansas City Journal-Post article had this long headline: “Astronomers Here to Be on Alert Monday Night for Meteor Shower — Century Ago Heavens Poured Down Most Impressive and Awesome Display Ever Recorded.” This was in reference to the famous Leonid meteor storm in 1833. An excerpt from the article says, “Edward F. Bowman, president of the Heart of America Amateur Astronomers, has assembled considerable data concerning the 1833 visitation for the information of his organization which will watch all during the visit of the Leonids.”
Fast forward to the late 1940s, and the club had been renamed yet again to the Amateur Astronomers and Telescope Makers of Kansas City. Stan Warkoczewsiki was the president that year and was in the process of grinding and polishing the 16-inch mirror for his telescope. The club lived up to its name by producing many homemade telescopes during that time.
In 1952 the club was known as the Astronomy Club of Kansas City. The big event for club members in the 50s was the Moonwatch Project, a satellite optical tracking program started in 1956 by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. It was designed to keep track of the Sputnik satellites being launched by the Soviet Union. Club meetings were held at the Kansas City Museum of History and Science on Gladstone Boulevard. (Now known as Corinthian Hall.) The first Mid-States Region of the Astronomical League convention was held in 1952 at the Kansas City Museum of History and Science.
Our club was officially named “The Astronomical Society of Kansas City” on April 26, 1973, when it received a “Certificate of Amendment of a General Not For Profit Corporation” in the state of Missouri. In that same year, Stan and Helen Warkoczewski donated their 16-inch homemade telescope to University of Missouri–Kansas City, where it is still in use today.
Society member Gary Rusinger and his brother Tom constructed a Newtonian reflector telescope with a 30-inch diameter mirror. In 1985 Powell Observatory was constructed by society members to house Gary's telescope. Much of the funding was provided by generous donations of Marjorie Powell Allen. The observatory is located about 25 miles South of Kansas City in Lewis-Young Park, just North of Louisburg, KS. The Rusinger telescope is one of the largest telescopes open to the public in a five-state area. The telescope is installed in a 20 foot dome, with an equatorial fork mount and computerized control systems.
Contributors: Tom J. Martinez