A Philosophical Overview

Tuva was founded in the fall of 1989 for the purpose of exploring the concept of adventure. Inspiration was provided by Nobel laureate Richard Feynman and his friend Ralph Leighton who undertook the adventure of attempting to go to Tuva in the heart of central Asia. Their story is told in the PBS documentary "Last Journey of a Genius" and in the book "Tuva or Bust" by Ralph Leighton.

    The first project undertaken by TUVA was the founding of the Tuva Astronomy Organization (TAO) which involved the construction of Tuva Observatory and a 24 inch-telescope named BART (Big Astronomical Reflecting Telescope). Astronomy seemed the perfect medium for Tuva since the exploration of he universe is closely associated with the idea of adventure and almost everyone has access to the sky in some degree. Accordingly it is the goal of Tuva Observatory to aid its members and the public at large in an astronomical adventure.

    The model for this particular approach to adventure is the well known "sidewalk astronomer" John Dobson of San Francisco. He has explicitly provided both the rational and methodology for the TAO in his book: "How and Why to Make a User Friendly Telescope." Tuva Observatory answers the challenge of Graham Loftis, another of the sidewalk astronomers, who said: "What we need is a large telescope in every village and hamlet, and some bloke there with that fire in his eye who can show something of the glory the world sails in."

    TUVA is particularly concerned with the mind/universe interaction. To paraphrase a well known quote from Dobson: The earth is part of the sky. And just as the sun is a very interesting object being the only star which we can study close up so the earth is a very interesting planet as it is the only planet we can study close up and one of the most interesting features of the earth is human consciousness. How is consciousness transformed when confronting the "greater" universe? What is the nature of the interaction? How is the observer affected and how does she respond?

    In addition to Feynman and Dobson the TAO draws inspiration from a third source, the renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell who provides an intellectual framework within which the TUVA adventure may be understood, transformed and communicated. He has thoroughly explored just the type of questions mentioned above and has discussed these ideas explicitly, especially in his books entitled "The Inner Reaches of Outer Space" and "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." He also discussed them in great detail in a PBS series of interviews with Bill Moyers conducted at the ranch of George Lucas the director of "Starwars" which drew heavily on the work of Campbell.

    The teachings of Feynman, Dobson and Campbell are commemorated in TUVA’s Shrine to Adventure which contains, among other things, the Feynman Relic an unfinished painting by Feynman provided by Ralph Leighton. Their common philosophical outlook is further explored and expanded in TUVA’s library and research activities. If you have any ideas, information, comments or suggestions contact Tuva Observatory.


    The Axis Mundi, to use a favorite phrase of Joseph Campbell, of The Tuva Astronomy Organization is Tuva Observatory located on the north slope of Mt. Feynman about 5 miles northwest of Checotah, Oklahoma at latitude 35o 30' 53" longitude 95 o 35' 33" and an elevation of 650' or 198.2 meters. It was built in 1989 and was. originally outfitted with a 10-inch Meade SC telescope which was used visually and photographically for several years until the building of the 24-inch scope BART.

    Membership in the TAO is open to anyone anywhere. There are two types of membership: local and non-local. Dues are $15 per year for local members and $10 per year for non-local members. Local members are those who live near enough to attend star parties and utilize resources such as the library and telescopes. Non-local members who want to visit or happen to be in the area are welcome to attend all observatory functions.

    Tuva Observatory provides free programs on request to local community groups such as schools, scouts, 4-H club, home-schoolers, etc. The observatory publishes "The Tuva Newsletter" and sponsors an annual Messier Marathon and the Dave Stine Award which goes to the winner. Meetings and programs open to the public are held at the local library and there are monthly star parties at the observatory where members and visitors can use the telescopes and receive instruction. Star party dates are given on the "club news" page.

    The primary benefits of non-local membership are a subscription to the "Tuva Newsletter" and access to the Beginners Program which is designed to enable the novice observer to identify stars, constellations and other objects which are visible without optical aid. The program includes observing instructions, a list of objects to identify, a set of sky maps with the objects clearly indicated, a planisphere and access to the Tuva E-mail Hotline which can be used for answers to any questions which might arise in the course of the program. A "Tuva or Bust" bumper sticker is also included and those who successfully complete the program receive a TOE (Tuva Observer Extraordinaire) certificate.

    In addition to the free programs mentioned above the observatory offers custom astronomy programs with all proceeds going to the observatory. Custom programs may contain lectures, a variety of slide shows and telescopes. Because BART is a trailer-mounted scope it can travel to designated locations. Anyone interested in a Tuva membership or a custom astronomy program with BART should contact Ron Wood for further details.

    Looking to the future a new building is planned which will contain space for meetings, the Tuva library, the Tuva Shrine to Adventure and several space related collections of stamps, astrophotos, cartoons and crafts. In addition a second observatory, Tuva North, has recently been opened in nearby Muskogee. It is dedicated to CCD imaging using a 12.5" RCOS RC/ST10MXE and TAK FSQ106/Paramount ME. Some of the images from Tuva North are already available on this website and many more are to come.