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Space Time With Robert brings the cosmos closer to Taylor Dock

On clear sky weekends, a telescope is set up for people to view the stars

Carl was the third telescope donated to the Nooksack Tribal School, in 2022 at Taylor Dock in Bellingham, Wash. In the background is Alice, a robotic telescope. // Photo courtesy of Robert Wilmore

Amidst the lull of waves breaking against Taylor Dock, Robert Wilmore stands with a mission: to unveil the wonders of the cosmos to all who care to gaze. On clear-sky Sundays, Wilmore sets up a telescope and invites passersby to peek into the lens.

“It was just me and a couple friends that would go out every weekend to look through the telescope and share it with everybody.” Wilmore said. “Eventually people started calling it Space Time With Robert.”

Space Time With Robert started in the summer of 2017 at Boulevard Park, where Wilmore was looking at Jupiter and Saturn and thought other people needed to see it as well. He brought out his own telescope, set up near Woods Coffee and had passersby look through it. 

“They wished that they could see it better and more often, and I agreed. I had no discrepancies with that request,” Wilmore said. “So I thought, ’Why not, let's do this.’”

Supernova SN2023ixf goes off in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101), seen from Bellingham, Wash. in May 2023. The photo was captured using Alice, an 80mm Achromatic Refractor. // Photo courtesy of Robert Wilmore

He decided to purchase a bigger telescope and migrated the event to Taylor Dock, which has a better view point. Within a couple months, Space Time With Robert became a weekly event.

Wilmore was drawn into the world of astronomy after seeing a photograph in the book, Cosmos by Carl Sagan. The image depicted the sun being blocked by the shadow of a person jumping in front of it. The optical illusion and counterintuitive aspect perplexed Wilmore, and made him curious about the mechanics of telescopes.

“I don’t know that I would have had the appreciation for all of this, had I not spent so much time learning about it and reading Sagan’s books,” Wilmore said.

Wilmore wanted to document and commemorate everyone who gazed through a telescope for the first time. First timers started leaving their signature on his telescope. Eventually it got completely covered, and in order to continue the tradition, a new telescope was bought with donations.

Wilmore decided to donate the signature-covered first telescope to a school, and sent a public letter to Bellingham School District. The first telescope, named John I and covered in 700 signatures, was donated to Bellingham High School. With 500 signatures, John II followed and was given to the Exploration Academy, a field-based school in Bellingham.

“Robert was a huge gift and his telescope was an enormous asset to the school,” said Jay Reimer, a teacher at Exploration Academy. “His generosity reaped ample benefits in the lives of kids who learn best by doing.”

Robert Wilmore cleans and sets up equipment at Taylor Dock in Bellingham, Wash. in 2023. The current telescope is named after Caroline Herschel; attendees at the events learn about her and what she discovered. // Photo courtesy Jeff Goertz

For an independent school, the hardware was invaluable, Reimer said. Students loved experiencing science directly, rather than learning through books and videos. 

“It’s a remarkable experience,” Wilmore said. “It's a great way to turn a would-be astronomer into a true astronomer or engineer.”

The fourth telescope, named after Isaac Newton, has been ready for donation since last year, Wilmore said. However, he faced the challenge of finding a school willing to accept the telescope. 

The issue was finding an educator adept at utilizing the technology, Wilmore said. After being turned down three times, Sehome High School recently confirmed they would like Isaac, and are in contact with Wilmore to schedule the donation drop off.

Passerby look through a telescope with Robert Wilmore in Bellingham, Wash. in June 2023. The Telescopes in the Park event was held in collaboration with WACO. // Photo courtesy of Jeff Goertz

For Wilmore, the goal and idea is to supply as many telescopes into Whatcom County as possible.  

“Astronomy is one of the scientific disciplines that has the potential to be the most transformative for students and the general public in terms of how they view their relationship with the world around them,” said Melissa Rice, astronomy professor at Western Washington University. 

In Wilmore’s world, the night sky isn’t just a spectacle; it’s a shared experience. Open to anyone interested in attending, Wilmore will be out at Taylor Dock with his telescope every Sunday at sunset if skies are clear.

Valeria Molina

Valeria Molina (she/her) is a city life reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a junior majoring in Public Relations and International Business. In her free time, you will find her skiing at Mount Baker, thrifting, reading and listening to music with friends. You can reach her at 

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