About Dave



I'm a native son of the Midwest, born at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Raised in Indiana throughout my high school years, I then made my way west to attend college in Southern California. I graduated from the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, CA. My career as an engineer has been mainly in the chemical industry and in seawater desalination, providing me with rewarding experiences and travel opportunities to remote parts of the world.

In the Gila Bend Mountains, Arizona 2001
Posing for Dad, Indiana 1954



I love to travel and have been to 35 countries on four continents. One claim-to-fame is that technically I've been to North Korea two times; once from the border with South Korea at the Panmunjom Truce Village and once from the Chinese side in Changbai County by taking one step over the line on a bridge spanning the Yalu River. Neither my Chinese bodyguards nor the North Korean guard with the machine gun standing on the other side found that stunt very amusing. An unusual goal I set for myself a long time ago was to dip my hand into the world's four oceans. I completed it on June 4, 1985 with a trip above the Arctic Circle to Barrow, Alaska, sampling the frigid Arctic Ocean on a balmy 35 °F summer day while keeping an eye out for polar bears. In addition to astronomy, my interests include hiking, mountaineering and fishing. Climbing adventures have taken me to many beautiful places in the world. Besides climbing over a thousand peaks in the United States, I've enjoyed trips to other countries in pursuit of distant summits. Climbs that were particularly memorable include a solo winter ascent of Mt. Fuji, scaling a 22,000 foot Himalayan peak in the Everest Region of Nepal, and climbs of the Mexican volcanoes Popocatepetl and Pico de Orizaba. My favorite places in the whole world: Alaska and Switzerland.

Popocatepetl 12/31/1991
Pico de Orizaba 12/28/1991

In the Khumbu Himal, Nepal
The Roof of the World 11/10/1990

King Salmon, Alaska 1983
Northern Pike, Canada 1964


Fascination with the Stars

My interest in astronomy started at the age of 9 when my father took me to the home of a friend who was an amateur astronomer. I can remember that chilly fall evening to this day, and the huge, long focal length 12-inch Newtonian reflector mounted in this gentleman's back yard. Although I don't remember all of the objects we looked at that evening I do remember the first one vividly; Saturn! I was smitten; hooked for life. Graduating from my first dime store refractor to a 60mm Unitron refractor in the early 1960's, I remember setting up in the backyard on freezing winter nights, star hopping from one object to the next. Those were the days when Jupiter's Red Spot was really red and finding faint objects required the understanding of manual setting circles and an intimate knowledge of the night sky. Struck with aperture fever by age 13, I enrolled in the Amateur Telescope Making program at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and completed a 6-inch parabolic mirror for use in a Newtonian reflector. My father, who I dearly loved and credit with instilling in me a love of the physical world, patiently and faithfully drove me to the planetarium every weekend to work on my mirror. Amateur astronomy sure has come a long way since then! Keeping up with the advances in technology and equipment has been both challenging and expensive simultaneously. I could never have imagined that my Unitron refractor would actually cost less than some modern day eyepieces. I can truthfully say that it's been an enjoyable, mind expanding journey bringing me a deeper understanding of my place in the universe and a heightened awareness of the infinite beauty and order of the cosmos.

So, I was strictly a visual observer from age 9 until 52, using various telescopes ranging from that 2.4” Unitron Equatorial refractor in the 60’s to a beloved orange tube Celestron C-14 with an incredible set of optics in the 90’s. With a 10” Meade LX200, the C-14, and a modestly priced pair of Orion Ultra-View 7 x 50 binoculars I completed a number of the Astronomical League’s observing lists, the toughest being the Herschel 400 List. To see the certificates I earned from the Astronomical League from 1999 to 2001, click here. Even with the C-14 from dark sky sites many of the obscure objects on the Herschel 400 list could only be described as “a fuzzy object with slight brightening toward the middle and no structure noted”. After completing that list I felt it was time to move on to either a big Dobsonian for yet more advanced visual work or embrace a new technology making headway in the amateur community; digital imaging. Taking the fork in the road marked "Digital", that’s when things really got expensive.

Enter Digital Imaging

In 2002 I was urged (or is the better word “shamed”) by my observing buddies to take the plunge and try CCD imaging. I must admit that it seemed like a daunting prospect and not an inexpensive one either! My good friend John Downs introduced me to digital imaging during an observing trip we took to the Area 51 region of Nevada. In spite of John’s valiant efforts I can honestly say I wasn’t completely convinced to embrace the new technology after that trip; old habits die hard! Later that year I was eventually pulled into the digital arena by John and his gang of imaging buddies from our Little Blair Valley observing site in the eastern San Diego County desert. It was intriguing that those faint Herschel 400 objects I could barely detect visually with my C-14 would magically download on their laptop screens complete with detailed structure. That was it; I was sold on the concept and eager to duplicate what they were doing. Fortunately I already had a stable platform for imaging, the AP 1200 GTO mount, so it was just a matter of parting with several thousand dollars for a ST-8XE, CFW-8, AO-7, Maxin DL, Adobe Photoshop, a good laptop computer and a few other accessories to get started. Add to that a few minor incidentals like a 12.5” RCOS Ritchey-Chrétien, Astro-Physics 160 EDF refractor, Takahashi FSQ-106 astrograph, Takahashi FCT-76 fluorite triplet refractor, Takahashi FS-60C refractor and an upgrade to the ST-10XME CCD camera. Hmmmm… no turning back after spending that much dough! Although I’m technically minded and can absorb new concepts pretty readily, I must admit that CCD imaging was a truly difficult, multi-faceted endeavor that gave me second thoughts. The person I have to credit with really getting me “up the CCD learning curve” and past the common pitfalls of novice imagers is Dave Held from La Jolla, an OPT member and superb astro-imager, who has and still to this day serves as my mentor in this field. Dave’s incredible grasp of the hardware and software aspects of CCD imaging coupled with his great patience made the learning a lot easier and much more enjoyable. Without his support I would have been a CCD school drop-out! The rest is just details.



I'm blessed to have a wonderful wife and two great kids with whom I can share my life's passions. Watching my children grow and develop a love for the wonders of this world has in a sense completed me as a person. I can relive the excitement of new discoveries through their young eyes and feel contentment in knowing that they've been imbued with an appreciation of nature to last a lifetime.

Family Picture 1997
As a family we enjoy hiking, climbing and fishing together. Both my kids have been hiking since an early age and have each bagged well over 50 peaks, including the highpoints of Texas, South Dakota, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina and Minnesota. They're never afraid to follow Mom and Dad on easy rope climbs and have blossomed into real adventurers. By the end of 2006 the kids had visited 230 national parks, monuments, historic sites or battlefields. We keep a National Park Passport record of all the places we've been and actually had to buy a second one for each kid because the first was already full for certain parts of the country. In September 2004 we went on a two day fishing trip in the Sierra Nevada and pulled in a trophy 7 pound rainbow trout.
Big Bend National Park, TX 12/30/2002
Highpoint of Chisos Mtns, TX

Highpoint of Texas, Guadalupe Peak 12/27/2003
Highpoint of S. Dakota, Harney Peak 08/05/2004

Trophy trout - Sierra Nevada 09/11/2004
South Lake - Sierra Nevada 09/10/2004