Mobile Solar Profile: Solar Powered Star Gazing with the Nejedlos

Mobile Solar Profile: Solar Powered Star Gazing with the Nejedlos

Shortly after receiving a master’s degree in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1943, John Dobson found himself attending a lecture given by a Vedantan (Hindu) Swami. Fascinated by the Vedantan worldview, Dobson decided to join the local monastery as a monk of the Ramakrishna Order. During what would become a 23-year tenure at the monastery, John was tasked with reconciling astronomy with Vedantan doctrine. In his efforts to do so he became a master telescope builder and avid astronomer. His love for astronomy and deep desire to share his cosmic knowledge with others slowly began to interfere with the Vedantan curriculum – leading to his eventual expulsion. Unrestricted by the monastery, John Dobson would go on to become a legendary amateur astronomer – most well-known for his contributions to “sidewalk astronomy.” Dobson’s eagerness to share the universe with others led him across the United States where he taught free telescope building workshops and astronomy classes in public areas. Mr. Dobson is no longer with us, but his legacy lives on through the thousands of people who he inspired to take a deeper look at the sky.

One such Dobsonian disciple is John Nejedlo, a retired police officer turned high school science teacher. John and his wife, Brenda, recently decided to leave their home, jobs and livelihood behind so that they could hit the road full time. Northeast Wisconsin had treated the Nejedlo’s well, but there was still so much to see – both on land and up in the sky.

Prior to embarking on their journey, they had a serious problem to solve – where and how were they going to store their collection of reflector and refractor telescopes? Some of their telescopes are quite large (in some cases up to 8 feet tall!) and very sensitive to both heat and humidity. They knew a climate-controlled trailer was necessary, but they weren’t sure how they would power the air conditioning system – especially during boondocking adventures without electrical hookups. A gas generator was considered but the constant refueling and noise would have made star-gazing sessions much less pleasant. Further research eventually led John to Mobile Solar. After seeing the MS-Series he knew he had found the answer. Not only would the trailer house the telescopes, but the added solar-plus-battery storage could power the air conditioning units as well – without fuel or noise!

After calculating the various electrical loads and space required to house the scopes, it was determined that an MS-325 would be the perfect unit to get the job done. With its 12 high-efficiency solar panels, large battery bank and considerable interior space, the MS-325 checked all of the Nejedlo’s boxes and then some. Mobile Solar worked with Look Trailers to fully insulate the interior of a one-off, slightly elongated trailer that would better accommodate a custom solar panel racking system. Once the trailer was complete, John and Brenda were now ready to hit the road with their telescopes in tow.

The Nejedlo’s have been on the road for just about a year now and are loving every second of it. Their off-grid astronomy outfit is certainly one of a kind, and as such, it has garnered its fair share of attention. YouTube producers have featured the Nejedlo’s in their vlogs.  Eric Odom, the lead producer of Epic Nomad TV, not only wants to feature the Nejedlo’s in one of his mini-series but will use their trailer to power his film equipment as well. Shooting a TV series is energy intensive work and it turns out that the MS-325 is a perfect solution (albeit a bit over-sized) for storing and powering film equipment in an off grid environment. In addition to the media production requests, John and Brenda were recently asked by the Family Motor Coach Association to headline and present at one of their rallies in Oklahoma. Here they will have an opportunity to showcase their off-grid chops to hundreds.

Despite all of the attention that the telescopes and trailer may get, the primary goal of the Nejedlo’s journey is to turn that attention back up at the stars. Following in the footsteps of the great John Dobson, John and Brenda frequently put on free astronomy sessions at schools and national parks. Their arsenal of telescopes gives them the ability to operate day or night, with or without the presence of light pollution. Several of their telescopes can hook up to a TV screen so that multiple people can take a peek into space at the same time. John often lets participants control the telescopes themselves so that they can feel a more personal relationship with what they are looking at. He says that he “gets the tingles” when he is able to show people where they stand in the universe – likely the same tingles that motivated John Dobson to embark on some similar journey decades before. The Nejedlo’s are certainly worthy torch bearers on the Dobsonian mission to educate the world on our place in the universe and doing so in such an environmentally unobtrusive way makes them that much more admirable. There is something beautiful about using the energy from the stars to gaze right back at them.

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