Following the stars, one man realizes his dream

| 22 Feb 2012 | 07:56

From his own private observatory, amateur astronomer Al Carcich does something he’s loved doing since childhood, By Tom Hoffman WANTAGE - When Al Carcich was a 9-year-old in Fort Lee, his father gave him an old pair of binoculars “and I looked through them every chance I could.” A year later, his cousin’s friend shared his crude cardboard telescope with Carcich, enabling him to view the crescent of Venus and the rings of Saturn for the first time. By the time he was 11, Carcich bought his first telescope and he’s been hooked on exploring the heavens ever since. “Once you’re bitten, that’s it,” said Carcich, speaking in the foyer of his Wantage business, Frame Works of Sussex, where he builds custom picture frames. Carcich and his wife Kathy moved to Wantage 10 years ago after tiring of the commute from their home in Waldwick to the Oreck vacuum cleaner store they ran in Middletown, N.Y. He contemplated building an observatory for years. “The more you get into astronomy, the less room you have in your car trunk or attic to store stuff,” he said. When he looked into building an observatory several years ago, though, Carcich discovered that it would’ve cost up to $15,000 to build one with a dome. After a bit of research, he found a company in Canada that constructs roll-off observatories. So he ordered a set of blueprints from them in 2004, only to sit on the project for two years. Building his own Still thinking of the project in the fall of 2006, he briefly considered buying land in Pennsylvania. But instead he got motivated again and began building an 8- by-10-foot observatory on his own Wantage property. “There’s light pollution here (in Wantage) from the local car dealers but it’s still better than driving to observe,” said Carcich, who stresses that he’s an amateur astronomer. He followed the design specifications from the roofing blueprints but made some height modifications and used different roofing materials. He used nine construction “footers” around the base of the structure to stabilize the building. He also installed a concrete telescope “pier” that extends four feet into the ground to keep an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope immune from deck vibrations around the observatory. He completed the construction for about $5,000 (not including the telescope) and began using the observatory in March 2007 — the culmination of a lifelong dream. Included in the observatory is a camera that’s attached to the telescope, a television monitor for viewing celestial photographs and a short-wave radio to track the timing of when asteroids are scheduled to pass over different stars. In the two years since he built the observatory, his excitement for using it hasn’t dimmed. “I’m still the first one to look through the telescope,” said Carcich, nodding to his daughter Alexandra. Just like that boy from Fort Lee.