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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Guest Blogger; Dr. David H. Levy Skyward


Someone else who follows his passions!

Skyward for March 2021.David H. Levy

Stars are people too.

In last month’s Skyward, I included that four-word phrase, but the first time I used it was actually in an article about the life of the star Betelgeuse, for Astronomy magazine.  When I met Richard Berry, the editor at the time, he began by reciting those words:  “Stars are people too.”  He added that he accepted the article for publication in his magazine after he read those words. (It turns out that wasn’t my only unusual experience with that magazine.  A few years later David Eicher, the current editor, and I witnessed a construction crew blowing up a freeway overpass near the magazine’s headquarters in Milwaukee.)

 The picture is a shot of Orion rising in the east.  
Below the three stars of the belt is the fuzzy Orion 
Nebula, a stellar nursery where stars are born and young 
stars might flicker.  The bright star on the left is Betelgeuse,
 a very old star that might become a supernova in the distant future. 
Photograph by David H. Levy in 2005.

As I explained last month, stars live out their lives much as you do.  They are born in gaseous stellar nurseries, or diffuse nebulae.  In our sky two of the most famous nebulae appear are in summer, the Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius, and in winter, the Orion Nebula.  The little stars within the nebula vary in brightness, usually by a few tenths of a magnitude, but they can change quite quickly.  There are a few others in the Hyades star cluster in Taurus, the bull.  I saw one star there change rapidly over a period of a few minutes.  These stars mimic the behavior and misbehavior of human youth.

Also like us, stars settle down as they grow older.  Our Sun is an example of a star in middle age.  It has shone steadily for almost five billion years and will continue this way for another several billion.  Except for a cycle of eleven years during which the numbers of  sunspots, which are storms on the face of the Sun, rise and fall, the Sun behaves constantly and predictably. There are vague hints of a 12,000-year cycle dating back to biblical times but I have not found any evidence for this.

As our Sun enters old age it will begin to act erratically again.  Its hydrogen supply will be almost exhausted. It will begin to fuse its helium.  At some point during its red giant phase, it will suffer a helium flash.  This event might feature only a few minutes of strong helium fusion, but during which the Sun briefly will emit an enormous amount of energy equivalent to that of our whole galaxy. As it continues its red giant phase it might vary in brightness by several magnitudes over many months.  Mira, a star in Cetus the whale, is such a star.  A Mira star’s core begins to contract under the force of its own gravity and whatever hydrogen is left will ignite into a shell around the core.    Mira, like other red giants, was once a Sun-like star that has used up its supply of hydrogen.  Once the helium is exhausted, its core will be left with heavier elements like oxygen and carbon. The outer layers of these old stars will explode as novae every few hundreds or thousands of years.   Eventually, with their outer layers gone, the core will become a white dwarf star.


 If a star is much more massive than our Sun, it would end its life far more dramatically—as a supernova.  Such an event is really catastrophic.  There are two kinds.  In the first, the smaller member of a two-star system will keep on attracting material from its larger companion.  But instead of repeated nova explosions, the small star will get more and more massive.    When that star’s core reaches a certain limit, in less than a second, the star finally will collapse on itself and will blow itself apart.

The other kind involves a very massive star, say three or four times the mass of the Sun.  Just like in the smaller star, its supply of hydrogen will be gone.  With little helium left the still contracting core is left with carbon and oxygen.  When the core reaches a certain temperature, the remaining carbon will ignite all at once tear the star apart.   

If the star is very massive, say nine or ten times the mass of the Sun, its very hot core allows the carbon to ignite and burn as before, but gradually, not all at once.  Heavier elements like phosphorus and sulfur will be formed in shorter and shorter intervals, until silicon is generated.    After just one day, the silicon will fuse into iron.  Iron cannot fuse to anything heavier.  Instead, in less than a second the core will crash in on itself.  In the resulting explosion, the star’s outer layers will be blown away.  The brightness rise is so dramatic that the single supernova will outshine its entire galaxy.  What is left is either a very dense neutron star, where a cubic inch of matter would weigh as ton or more here on Earth, or in the most massive stars, a black hole from which even light cannot escape.

Although stars do not have consciousness like we do, they lead extraordinary lives that are well worth our appreciation and study.  Don’t forget: Stars are people too. 



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Thinking outside the Doll House, A Memoir, is now available on Amazon for Preorder!

Here is the link: Thinking outside the Doll House:

This has been a long journey; about 17 years to gather research and write the draft, while I worked a difficult main job and several part time jobs, took care of my parents, aunt and uncle in their last illnesses, moved my aunt from California to Illinois, moved my uncle from California to be buried in Illinois, dealt with my husband's family's issues, helped raise our stepson, lost three dear kitties, and adopted two more,  wrote and got other books and article published, and started these blogs.

All the while, Dr. Roald Tweet and my husband, Dino Milani, kept the faith.  I've lost many friends and family who gave me their love and support, and I hope they are looking down and smiling.

This book dodged the slings and arrows of fortune many times; it is the story of dolls and also the story of my own life as well as the journey where the dolls have taken me.

I hope you enjoy it.  Proceeds will help to support American Doll and Toy Museum, a non profit organization.


Friday, February 5, 2021

A Day in the Life of American Doll and Toy Museum


A Day in the Life of American Doll and Toy Museum




I’ve spent my life in pursuit of passion.  Passion is that . . . thing, that stuff which makes life worth living.


William Shatner Quote on Passion from his book, Live Long and . . .:



I have a poster framed in the museum, to the left of the bookshelf with my personal books that reads, “Do it with passion or not at all.”


We’ve started this museum with a passion, life long, and we’ve grown and nurtured it.   It hasn’t been easy.


My day consists of getting up, making coffee and oatmeal, and reviewing emails and paperwork.  I feed my two kitties and get them fresh water.  In the unlikely event that I might forget, Mr. Tuxie “sweet talks” me by wrapping himself around my ankles.  Miss Bangy also does this, but she takes a more direct approach afterwards.  She goes to her dish, sits in front of it, and looks at it, then me, several times.


I pay bills, write letters,  deal with my family’s estate matters.  I’ve lost three people in 2.5 years, and I’ve had to run back and froth between the Midwest and West Coast, while someone at each place was always sick or dying.  One family member came cross country to live with us, then one morning last June, soon after my birthday and hers, I went to wake her up, and she was gone.  I’ve lost my friend, mentor, and teacher, worked on my writing the best I could, and finished a book which the publishers say will come out Feb. 26th.  It’s called Thinking outside the Doll House, a Memoir, and it is as much the story of my life as it is the history of dolls and doll collecting.


After I get dressed, I try to play the piano; I still take lessons, since age 8.  It clears my mind and my head.  I’ve known my teacher since I was 9, and I grew up with her two girls.  She was our Sunday school choir director, vacation Bible school choir director, and piano teacher.  I still learn things, and I do music theory like others do crossword puzzles.


Lately, we’ve had another white out/blizzard storm.  I’m blocked in the house till my husband can get up to move his truck, and our son gets to work.   Then, it’s slow, treacherous going.  I fall a lot due to sinus/ear issues, and I don’t want to fall on this ice.  The good news is I have very strong bones and am flexible; I can get up on my own.


In the museum, I arranging glass cases, and hoping to make arrangements to open.  Apparently the State will allow it, but we a huge case to reassemble, cleaning, sanitizing, masks to buy, glass fronts to put up, a gift shop to finish rearranging.



We also have well over 3000 books on any subject connected to dolls, books on dolls, and law books filled with cases about dolls, toys, toy making, miniatures, art and intellectual property.


I am emptying and rearranging our meeting room, so we can begin to rent it out when it is safe


We will begin creating a website besides our social media accounts, and will also begin    creating Podcasts for our YouTube Channel, currently under my name, Ellen Tsagaris.  There are short films there now about dolls and similar subjects.


Grants are my next big project; my programs will also benefit other local nonprofits and charities, but I need funds to maintain the building and to get started.


We love those who have donated items to our collection, and we love those who have donated money.  We really need financial donations and grants to operate, even to get ready to open.


I’m thinking we will probably be open by appointment soon.  I have finished our seasonal Valentine’s Display, but have left vintage Christmas up since no one could really see it during the season.  I also put window displays up for President’s Day and Black History month.


We are a teaching museum, and we promote fun and education, as well as community historical awareness and creativity.


Today, I hope to create a display in memory of Dr. Tweet with his amazing paper airplane and model collection, as well as some paper doll houses he made for me. I will be adding carvings and other items he and Margaret gave to me over the years.


A few items we’d like to add to our wish list include:


  1. Jackie Robinson Doll
  2. Fidel Castro doll, c. 1950s
  3. Kitty Karryall from The Brady Bunch
  4. No. 1 Barbie
  5. Barbie No. 1 stand, vintage clothes, vintage Barbie boxes from Nos. 1 to 4.
  6. Muppets Statler and Waldorf
  7. Doll from Karen Black’s Trilogy of Terror film
  8. Any actual models from Rankin Bass or animations including Rudolph, Davey and Goliath, Night mare Before Christmas, etc.
  9. Original art by Joseph Cornell and Jeff Koontz
  10. Large Japanese Friendship doll
  11. Bunraku puppet
  12. Pedal Cars
  13. Britains toy soldiers
  14. Pollock’s toy paper theater


Thank you all, Good Bless, and Be safe!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Third Rock and the Fluffy Buddies

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Third Rock and the Fluffy Buddies:  I caught the Third Rock from the Sun Fluffy Buddies episode on Laff this morning.  it is the spoof on bean bag plush madness as it evolved ...

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Skyward December 2020 by our guest blogger, Dr. David Levy

 Dr. Levy has been a guest blogger for our blogs for over two years.  Our museum is one of the meeting places for the Popular Astronomy Club, and we include space toys and telescopes among our collection.  Dr. Levy has discovered more comets than anyone alive; he is also a Shakespeare scholar and noted author.

Skyward for December 2020


David H. Levy


December 17.


          The night of December 17, 1965 changed my life.  That was the night I began a search for comets that this goes on to this day.  It represents the second most important decision I have ever made, to begin a visual search for comets and exploding stars that are called novae.  The first most important decision, of course, was to marry Wendee.  Both decisions made my life what it is today. 

Usually in Montreal, November, December, and April are the cloudiest months.  Therefore I wasn’t counting on a clear sky that evening.  After a Friday evening dinner with my family, I walked over to my friend Tom Meyer’s home and we visited for a while.  Afterwards, around 11 pm. I took Clipper, our little beagle, for a walk towards the summit of the hill on which we lived.

It was during this little stroll with Clipper that things began to change.  Towards the west there appeared to be some lightening of cloud cover, and soon after, clearing.  Within about 15 minutes large swaths of sky were showing some stars.  I couldn’t believe it.  I turned toward home, and for a few seconds Clipper and I enjoyed a tug-of-war until he gave up and walked back home with me.  Just before midnight on the 17th, I began my first comet hunting and I scanned the sky between Pollux and Castor, in the constellation of Gemini.  The clouds returned after that.

As the famous ABC news reporter Jules Bergman said on the launch of Telstar, the world’s first active telecommunications satellite in 1962, “And it all began today.”  For me, it surely did.  In December 2020, fifty-five years will have passed, and I still am searching almost every clear night.   There are 22 comets roaming about the solar system with the Levy name on them, plus one named Jarnac.  Jarnac Observatory is the name of our observing site here in Vail, Arizona and is named in turn after my grandfather’s cottage, Jarnac, near Ripon, Quebec.  An object was found and automatically reported by Tom Glinos, who once had an automated telescope here.  Because he incorrectly identified the object as an asteroid, when it turned out that it sported a tail and was reclassified as a comet, it was named, following the rules, for the observatory, not for the discoverer.  Thus, my total is now 23 comets.  If my grandfather knew that his beloved cottage (and later observatory) now had a comet with its name on it, he would be dancing all over heaven.  It is a happy story that still goes on today.

"I have owned and used Pegasus, an 8-inch diameter Cave reflector, for
more than half a century.  In this picture, camper Andy Bauman and I
are pointing Pegasus to project the Sun, at the Adirondack Science
Camp, in 1966.I used this telescope on my first night of comet hunting
in 1965.  Photograph by Joe Howard."





Wednesday, December 2, 2020