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Amateur Astronomers

August 13, 2012 | By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times
The summer sunset has painted a vivid watercolor of orange, coral and violet over the Pacific, just past the pier in Seal Beach. But Michael Beckage already has his telescope trained on the moon. Even in this light, the moon is bright and crystalline, like a salt mine with dimples and ridges. Yet Beckage hardly has a moment to take a peek. Instead, a little girl perches on a stepladder to squint into the eyepiece, a line forming behind her. "Do you see the holes in the moon?" Beckage says, pointing out the craters.
While Russell Crotty is more than respectably accredited as an artist--he has an MFA, gallery representation, teaching credits and so on--the truly resonant quality of his work is its spirit of amateurism. The term "amateur" is often used today to imply second-rate status, but in its traditional sense, or perhaps in a more romantic sense, it means a person who engages in a chosen pursuit for pleasure rather than as a profession.
April 29, 1993 | RICK VANDERKNYFF
As Wayne Johnson sees it, one of Orange County's most precious natural resources is dwindling away, year by year, and nobody is lifting a finger to stop it. The loss he bemoans is dark skies, the kind of blackness-with-stars that many suburbanites these days see only in Steven Spielberg movies. Drive in some night from the mountains or the desert and you'll see the L.A.
September 4, 2004 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Astronomers have discovered the brightest supernova in a decade, an exploding star as bright as 200 million suns. Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki discovered the supernova on July 31 with a small telescope. Astronomers subsequently turned the Hubble Space Telescope toward the star, 11 million light-years from Earth on the fringes of a galaxy called NGC 2403.
January 8, 1991 | Associated Press
An amateur astronomer peering through a telescope with a 16-inch mirror that he had ground by hand has discovered a new comet. Howard Brewington, an electronics technician who had discovered another comet Nov. 16, 1989, said he saw the comet Sunday night in the area of the Pisces constellation.
October 31, 1990 | From Associated Press
An American spy satellite that was believed to have suffered catastrophic failure and broken apart not long after it was launched in March has been spotted 503 miles high by amateur astronomers. It apparently has been there all along, said Ted Molczan of Toronto, who tracked the bright object seen by three other amateurs and determined it was the secret payload put into orbit from the shuttle Atlantis on March 1.
Ben Mayer, a successful interior designer for casinos and theaters by profession, and a remarkably accomplished amateur astronomer in his off-duty hours who uniquely photographed an exploding star with equipment he invented, has died. He was 74. Mayer, who lived in Westlake Village, died Tuesday at UCLA Medical Center after a series of strokes, said his son, Quinn Mayer.
August 25, 2010 | Times staff and wire reports
Jack Horkheimer, an amateur astronomer who created and hosted the long-running weekly public television segment "Star Gazer," died Friday in Miami. He was 72. Horkheimer had battled respiratory problems for many years, according to Tony Lima, a spokesman for the Miami Science Museum and Space Transit Planetarium. Horkheimer directed the planetarium for 35 years until his retirement three years ago. A flamboyant showman, Horkheimer was not taken seriously by professional astronomers, but his exuberant promotion of naked-eye astronomy — stargazing without a telescope — made him a celebrity among amateurs and gave his five-minute weekly television segments a campy appeal.
January 25, 2004 | Ben Brazil, Special to The Times
THE astronomer was annoyed. Luigi "Rolly" Bedin, a young researcher from Padua, Italy, had traveled to northern Chile to study dense groupings of stars called globular clusters. Instead, he'd spent several nights hopelessly waiting for the clouds to clear. Considering northern Chile's reputation for perpetually perfect astronomical conditions, this was sort of like visiting the Bahamas in the middle of a blizzard. I could commiserate.
August 14, 2010 | By Colin Stutz, Los Angeles Times
The brilliant streaks of light above Mt. Pinos in the Los Padres National Forest late Thursday elicited "oohs" and "aahs" and applause from the audience of stargazers. The prediction that the Perseid meteor shower — August's annual show of shooting stars would peak Thursday night and into early Friday lured about 200 people to Mt. Pinos, Southern California's most celebrated arena for social stargazing and amateur astronomy. While casual viewers stretched out on reclining chairs and stared skyward, some more serious hobbyists organized a star party in the middle of a large conifer-lined parking lot, two miles east of the summit.
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