Pass It On is a new, bi-weekly peek inside the heart and mind of Francis Pass…


Click the play button to listen to Francis Pass tell this story.


As a youngster growing up in Dongola, families and neighbors would sit outside and conversate on their porches. As for me, well, I’d always be lookin’ to the sky.

I remember the first time my father pointed out the Big and Little Dippers. He told me they were only visible at certain times of the year. That fascinated me. Why couldn’t they be seen in the sky all the time, I wondered.

Why couldn't they be seen in the sky all the time, I wondered

Then Dad showed me the constellations and their various names. Like Orion, Aquarius, Aries, and so on. Did you know the Big Dipper is actually an asterism? That’s a fancy-schmancy term for a group of stars smaller than a constellation. The Big Dipper is part of a constellation called Ursa Major. That sounds like a character from a science fiction movie. I don’t know. I kinda like “Big Dipper” better.

All of this gave a spark to this Dongola boy’s heart. I thought, “My goodness gracious, wouldn’t it be great if I had pictures of all the constellations?”

All of this gave a spark to this Dongola boy's heart

I started building a four-foot by two-and-a-half-foot box out of plywood. I stapled Christmas tree lights to the back and put dividers in there along with heavy cardboard that I had painted black. Then I poked holes in the cardboard with my protractor to form the constellations.

I set that box on my dresser and plugged it in at night so I could see the constellations, right there in my bedroom.

Then I got the bright idea to add a control panel so that I could switch on each individual constellation.

This led to me writing a paper on how the constellations are always there but, due to the tilt of the earth, they’re not all visible year-round.

I entered my little gidgety-gadgety wonderland in the Dongola High School Science Fair. And whaddya know… it won first place. This earned me a shot at the state level, which I did not win.

I entered my little gidgety-gadgety wonderland in the Dongola High School Science Fair

Later on, I became more interested in combustion engines than constellations… so that marked the end of my career in astronomy.

But even today, as I sit out on my front porch, my eyes are still drawn to the sky. I find it fascinating. Where does it end? Where does it begin? What is out there beyond the horizon that we haven’t yet discovered?

Some people are captivated by the oceans. Other folks find mountains mesmerizing. Where does your sense of wonder lead you? What are the things that you find fascinating?

Let me know. I’d love to hear about them.

Be well. Stay well.

And thanks for readin’…

Francis Pass.

P.S. – Did you know you can be an astronomer too? It’s true. Just download the StarView app to your smartphone and point it at the night sky. It’s amazing. It’s a whole lot easier than building a plywood box with Christmas lights.

a little boy looking through a telescope