Telescope lover wins award for invention

The 83rd Stellafane Convention for amateur telescope makers was held in Springfield, Vt., Aug. 9-12, and longtime Wilton resident Martin Hamar walked away as a winner.

Hamar, 82, who has enjoyed telescopes and astronomy as a hobby all his life, won Stellafane’s Innovative Component Award for his sundial-based polar alignment aid.

“Necessity is the motherhood of invention,” Hamar said during an interview. He explained that he needed to have a component for his telescope that would allow him to align with the star Polaris, so he could get the best possible view of last year’s solar eclipse. He set about designing one for himself.

Hamar got readings on the sun’s exact calibrations from a GPS program on his tablet computer, and matched them up with a sundial arm he crafted himself, even cutting out the metal shaft on a lathe he has at home.

The device uses a common carpet needle to cast a shadow on the sundial onto the position where Polaris is, at that moment.

“It worked like a champ,” he said proudly of his invention, one of several he has won awards for from Stellafane over the years.

He’s not an astronomer by trade.

His professional life was owning and operating Hamar Laser Instruments, Inc. in Danbury, which is in its 51st year, now being run by one of his sons, making precise laser alignment equipment. He holds numerous patents in the laser field.

He’s not going to seek a patent for his latest invention though, because he said it is intended to help align a telescope for an eclipse in broad daylight, and those types of celestial events are rather rare.

There won’t be another until 2024, he said.

Hamar is glad to share the design with fellow astronomical enthusiasts, though, so they can have one too. Building one takes a certain skill, though.

“I love building things, I love working with my hands,” Hamar said. He has a workshop at home to build his creations.

“I love figuring out the solutions to problems. Sometimes they take a long time to figure out. I thought about one problem for 20 years before one day the solution came to me and I had it.”

Hamar is a native of New Jersey and has lived in Wilton since 1962 with his wife. The couple has two sons, and five grandchildren.

It’s important to have hobbies in life, he agreed.

“It gives you something to do, especially when you get older,” he said. “I know older people who have no hobbies, and they get bored.”

Hamar joins others with the same interest as a longtime member of the Westport Astronomical Society.