This Summit county-based stargazer Wants More Eyeballs on Eyepieces.

As a 10-year-old, Silverthorne’s Mark Laurin, now 59, remembers the excitement of receiving his first telescope–a small tabletop refractor. Over the years, as his telescopes grew in size and complexity, he became deeply passionate about sharing the night sky with visitors to Summit County. 

Today, he leads stargazing events for the Keystone Science School, the nearby Summit Sky Ranch and periodically for neighbors in the small park near his home, using a quiver of three telescopes and two astronomical binoculars.

His astronomy programs are so popular, people have started affectionately calling this corporate training and development executive “Astro Mark.” 

The Kenosha, Wisconsin, native, a graduate of Ripon College and the University of Denver, says that along with skiing and cycling, astronomy is what gets him up out of bed in the morning, especially watching the wonder in a child’s eye as they view Saturn’s rings or the moons of Jupiter live, from millions of miles away for the first time.

“I tell kids, ‘This is in real life in real time. That light traveled millions of miles to reach you. It’s your own eyes experiencing the wonders of the heavens.’”

What does someone who tracks sidereal time look forward to? Astro Mark can’t wait for the 2024 total solar eclipse. He already has plans to be on the “center line” when it crosses North America. Meanwhile, his biggest passion is to get more “eyeballs on eyepieces.” To that end, he travels throughout Summit County to share his passion for astronomy with visitors and locals alike. “Fancy equipment is nice, but a simple $15 planisphere of the night sky and a warm blanket is sometimes enough,” he says.

So what are his latest, favorite stargazing targets? 

“Sunspots and prominences,” he says. “With solar filters I can open up the heavens day and night. People must connect to something infinitely larger than themselves to find meaning and purpose in their lives. The universe isn’t separate from us, it’s who we are.” 

—Jeff Blumenfeld