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Here's a bit about me

   I am born. (Oh, that's another story, isn't it.) I was born in Chicago, and after my undergraduate years in Champaign-Urbana, IL, I never went back to Chicago to live. I have lived in St. Louis (two different times), Charlottesville (VA), Rochester (NY), Newark (DE), and for the past 35 years in Washington, DC.

   Adler Planetarium During my growing up years I spent many weekend days at the Adler Planetarium. My first telescope was a GOTO (the brand, not a "go to") 2-inch refractor on a rickety tripod. Soon after, I got a 4¼-inch Newtonian (on a rickety tripod) from an Edmund Scientific surplus store not more than five miles from my home (we're talking the '50s here). Although these telescopes are gone, I still have the eyepieces I used with them. Those carefree days inspired me quite naturally to a career in astronomy. Suburban Chicago skies were pretty dark then, too.


   Fan Mountain Observatory  With an undergraduate degree in astronomy from Illinois, I did my Ph.D. work at U. Va. in the late 60's, studying occultations of stars by the moon -- mainly to understand astrophysical things but also to discover double stars. Along the way I got a Master's degree studying peculiar magnetic A stars (particularly 73 Dra) with spectroscopy and Balmer-line photometry. My Ph.D. advisor was H. John Wood. Forty years later, John is now in Washington, and has recently retired from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. One of my grad school compatriots was Dr. Paul Knappenberger, who recently retired as the Director of the Adler Planetarium. It's a small world.

  I worked as a professional astronomer at the University of Rochester from 1973 to 1978, and before that at the University of Delaware (1970-1973). I've spent many nights (both warm and cold) at the Mt. Cuba Observatory, the C. E. K. Mees Observatory, and on several occasions during the '60s and '70s at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Mt. Cuba Observatory Mees Observatory Kitt Peak National Observatory

The MITRE Corporation   Following my departure from an academic career, I worked at and finally retired from the Defense Mapping Agency, next known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, and now known as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. For five years before I retired in 2001, one of my main responsibilities was to manage the Agency's academic research grant program. I supported the same agency in a different role, in a third career, as a senior principal staff engineer employed by the MITRE Corporation. In another small-world coincidence, my boss when I first started at MITRE was an undergraduate classmate of mine at Illinois. In 2015, I fully retired and am now enjoying my backyard observatory.

  Although I left the discipline formally in 1978, I never left behind my love of astronomy. So even though I now live in Washington DC, in the city proper, with its overhead light pollution devices every 50 feet along the streets and alleys, I have a 12-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (permanently mounted on a sturdy pier!) with a CCD camera and a webcam, and I use ACP Observatory Control, FocusMax, MaxIm DL/CCD, Starry Night, PEMPro and other software with it. I get great pleasure out of what I am able to do in such a poor environment. I still carry my American Astronomical Society membership, although I haven't done publishable professional work or attended their meetings for many decades. Now I'm developing some variable and cataclysmic star observing programs, and other yet to be defined programs based on CCD photometry from my backyard. Sixteenth magnitude is easy with a 30-second exposure, and 17th is discernable, even on the usual nights, so there are lots of opportunities for contributions to the science. As a result of where I've placed my telescope, I have an unobstructed view of only about 45% of the sky, mainly from east-northeast to south-southwest to overhead to the NCP. Sadly, it's in the direction of the brightest part of the DC sky. I could get about 60% of the sky if I moved to the most open part of the yard, but in the long run, it probably doesn't matter.

  My journey to nirvana is steady but slow because I have many other wonderful, loving and life-fulfilling activities, including a family with four children, that slow down this avocation. Not to mention a need for sleep! So I've implemented a robotics capability in this observatory, and I'm "operational" and gaining experience with this way of working. (Now, if it'd only clear up....)

  This summer, after 35 years in DC, we are moving to rural upstate New York, 17 miles east of Ithaca. This will be a real retirement, away from the bustle in the city, to a 60 acre farm with much darker skies, more clear nights than DC, a view of 95%+ of the sky, no street lights, and a new backyard observatory, too.

Dick Berg
Washington, DC

You can reach me at this address.

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