Arkstar and Beyond
Arkstar Astronomy is comprised of Donnie and Donna Houston, and their son Tyler (Arkstar’s web designer, artist, and editor). Raised in Arkansas, Donnie earned a Doctorate in pharmacy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, as well as a master’s in astronomy, and a BS in zoology from Arkansas State University. Donna was born and raised in Costa Rica but moved to Arkansas for college where she earned a BA in Spanish at Ouachita Baptist University. Having earned a MA in English Literature, with concentration in American lit, from the University of Arkansas, Tyler is currently working towards a PhD in English Literature (with focus on media studies and popular culture). Arkstar is stationed in the heart of the Ozark mountains in the small community of Elkins, Arkansas. Astronomy has been a passion for Donnie since the mid 1970’s. Donnie’s first hands on telescope experience was in High School using a Celestron C8 Schmidt Cassegrain. After graduation, he purchased an Edmond Scientific Newtonian telescope and a small refractor. Since that time, he has never been without a telescope and the passion to use it.
Fast forwarding to present day, Arkstar’s mission is to propagate knowledge of the cosmos. Arkstar is committed to outreach programs, teaching others about visual astronomy, astrophotography, and products and services that are available to facilitate that process, as well as being dedicated to reviewing honestly and providing educational opportunities to those that desire them through local collaborations with the Boy Scouts of America and Explore Scientific.
Arkstar is also a local advocate of the fight against light pollution. Light pollution not only effects the ability for astronomers to enjoy the night sky, but the casual observer as well. In addition, scientific evidence suggests that artificial light at night has many negative and lethal effects on wildlife including birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, and plant life.
Education does not stop at the local level for Arkstar, however. Through an education-focused Youtube channel, Arkstar seeks to provide information to aspiring amateur astronomers through beginner's guides, reviews/tutorials, and conceptual or news-centric videos. Topics can range from general to specific and the channel offers something of value or intrigue to anyone interested in the final frontier. Online educational content of this nature helps to seed the interests of humanity's future and will hopefully inspire the next wave of professional and amateur star gazers, astronomers, researchers, or perhaps something new. Please visit the channel and show Arkstar your support.
In 2022, Donna and Donnie decided to pursue a lifelong dream of building an observatory. Out of the many options, a 12x14" sky shed seemed the most viable option given the space and setting. It is a roll-off-roof (RoR) observatory which allows for significantly more interior space than a traditional backyard dome while maintaining the aesthetic of a neighborhood structure. The construction project was tackled by both Donnie and Donna over the course of three months on their off-days.
The spacious design of the RoR allows for the use of dual Losmandy G11 mounts with sizable scopes (pictured are the Celestron 9.25 and the Explore Scientific ES152 mm Refractor). The space still allows fro both a recliner and desk in addition to the two scopes. The sky shed is the perfect tool for both teaching/outreach and star parties and offers the ideal space for comfortable astrophotography.