Joe Stuebler – AWB National Coordinator for Austria.
By Peggy Walker.

Joe Stuebler, Austria

Nestled in a cozy spot in Central Europe, Austria’s north border is shared with the Czech Republic and Germany, its eastern border with Hungary and Slovakia, its southern border with Slovenia and Italy, and its western border with Switzerland and Liechitenstein.  Oesterreich, to use the German name given to this region back in 996 a.d., was home to several Celtic tribes.  Linz, the capital of Upper Austria, is one of the 9 states which, when combined, provide 32,377 square miles of alpine climate—thanks to the Alps Mountain Range.  Linz, or Lentia, was the city founded by the Romans and was their center of trade for the Holy Roman Empire.  This 12th richest country in the world can boast of such notable and renowned musicians as the Haydens, Schubert, Mozart and both of the Strausses, as well as numerous psychologists and physicists.  But who can forget that 5th day of May in 1618 when the “distance-cubed-over-time-squared,” penned by Johannes Kepler, occurred here in Linz, Austria!

Johannes Kepler Observatory with the Big Dipper overhead

Not unlike Johannes Kepler, our Johannes has also contributed to the world of astronomy—astronomy outreach, that is.  Joe, as he likes to be called, is a married father of four and a valuable member of the Linz community.  As a member of the Astronomical Society of Linz, Joe took on the financial leadership of the project of building a public observatory for the community.  With the help of the 200-plus members of the club, funding came in for this 20 foot dome called the Johannes Kepler Observatory in Linz.

An amateur astronomer for over 30 years, Joe speaks fondly of his childhood interest of the sky—shown and taught to him by his father.  After college, Joe spent much more of his time pursuing the cosmos and became a member of the Astronomical Society of Linz in 1979.  Although his day is dedicated to IT networking for a large firm in Austria, his evenings are full of lectures, star parties and observing.  Joe admitted that, “Everything became new to me after IYA 2009, when I encountered Mike Simmons on the AWB website.”  After forming a friendship with Mike, Joe became the National Coordinator for Austria.

Joe providing live images of an eclipse for a t.v. station

Joe really can be considered the “Poster Boy” for GAM, mainly because of his promotion of the many remote observing events—even including a live webcast event with John Dobson in 2010.  Joe says, “I like everything during GAM, but I have to deal with the bad weather at this time of year.  That’s why Lunar Week is a great way to get a chance to have at least one event that week!” 

At first, Joe’s AWB crusade sparked comments like “AWB—what’s that?” and “Why do we need this?”  Now, however, AWB is largely recognized in the Linz and neighboring communities.  Joe’s impact is being felt like the House of Hapsburg.  More and more, Joe stretches himself and keeps moving forward crossing borders whenever possible.  Oftentimes, reports of his events are published in the magazine, “Sterne und Weltraum,” and there have been occasional news spots on a local station.

 

Joe welcomes the public to the TWAN Exhibit he and good friend Babak Tafreshi helped to coordinate together.

 

With his extreme desire to network with amateur astronomers worldwide, in 2010, Joe went from “Orient to Occident” in his car and in 2011, he traveled to Romania where he met Valentin Grigore and Tamas Ladany (TWAN) of Hungary.  Through his partnership with Babak Tafreshi of The World At Night (TWAN), they hosted a large digital TWAN Exhibition in the autumn of 2011 at the Ars Electronica Center (AEC) in Linz.

Joe posses with Valentin Grigore, AWB NC for Romania (left) and with Babak Tafreshi of TWAN (right).

 

A master networker, Joe’s contacts are quite numerous and include professional astronomers, university professors, other astronomical organizations, and other AWB leaders in many countries.  Joe is a great standard for other groups and clubs—to the degree that he has encouraged eight Austrian organizations to join Astronomers Without Borders as affiliates.  Together they work side by side as they conduct their Global Astronomy Month activities.

As a result of his efforts in hosting TWAN, outreaches at the Linz observatory and other programs at the Ars Electronica Center, and his large network of supporters, Joe is now a member of the Royal Astronomical Society.  Although RAS is not an amateur group—its main purpose is to encourage and promote the study of astronomy, solar system sciences, geophysics and other relative subjects—this 191-year-old institution could not deny this distinguished amateur astronomer after all his work in popularizing astronomy in Austria.  So in 2009, Joe’s name was added to the wonderful list of RAS members that started back in London at the Freemason’s Tavern on January 12, 1820.

Joe's Astro-Trailer

Joe’s current project is an Astro-Trailer that he converted from a motor bike trailer into a mobile observatory.  His revamping and installing has now become a home for video, full computer controls, video projector, a platform and a telescope.  Because of his desire to make people aware of the light pollution issues in Austria, Joe uses the Astro-Trailer at sidewalk events to teach about light pollution.  He will ask the public, “How many stars can you see?  They will reply, “Three or four,” and then he works his magic.  He goes inside his portable “observatory” like a magical wizard, utilizes his amateur photographic talents and snaps an image of the night sky.  He then shows the crowd, and they “Ooh” and “Aah” as their three to four stars are lost in the midst of hundreds of dots. 

This Astro-Trailer is also taken into dark skies to image and view the sky the way it was meant to be seen.  The Astro Trailer is still in the formative stages and is still in need for a few minor things—and then Joe will be on the road.  He wants to “tour some Arabic countries to get connected and share the fascination of our ONE SAME SKY!”

Joe presenting at the SARM—the Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy for young people(left) , posing with a group of Turkish students (center) and with Lebanese astronomers (right).


When asked why he is so dedicated to AWB, Joe replied, “I am dedicated to AWB because in my opinion it’s the best and only astronomical single point of meeting on our globe, with such an incredible bandwidth!  I like the mission of AWB—and the slogan “One People, One Sky” expresses all of what I feel, all of what I am, all of what makes sense to me.  For me, AWB’s mission is a perfect match for my personal interests and likings.  I like to travel, I like to get in contact with foreign people and foreign cultures, and I like to live the idea of AWB in practice.  I always liked to show people the wonder of the universe.  To be a part of this worldwide community represents another wonder of our world.  The wonder of being a human, being part of a peaceful global organization, having a simple message, which last but not least is a big, big challenge!  I am proud to be a kind of “Ambassador” of AWB and I want to uphold this reputation in the future.”

Read about other National Coordinators featured in National Coordinator Spotlight.