Celestron C-11, f/10 fork mounted equatorial SCT;
Deep-Sky Observing, Astrofiles editor, AAS web site author/editor
RDW: I've been at it for a little over 30 years. The date is fairly well fixed in my mind. I had seen a program on public television in the early Spring of 1976 on stellar evolution. I was so intrigued, that I started going to the library during my lunch hour and reading whatever I could understand. On a trip to Montgomery for car repairs on Memorial Day of 1976, I found the book "The Stars", by H.A. Rey in the public library. It was exactly what I was looking for. I ordered my own copy from the publisher and the rest is history.
AAS: What was your first experience that attracted you to astronomy?
RDW: Well, I guess my earliest memory of anything astronomical was when my mom pointed out the Big and Little Dippers at my paternal grandparents house in rural Russell County at about age five or so. At around age seven , I remember finding a book in tiny little one room community library in Comer, Alabama. I recall a drawing of the full moon with text describing the lunar mare patterns as those of a king with his crown. I've never heard of this depection since but it has stuck with me throughout my life.AAS: What are your other hobbies?
RDW: Well, obviously computing; starting with a Commodore 128, 2 MHZ processor, a 1200 Baud modem (no hard drive -- used 360K 5.25" floppies), in 1986. I'm also a fan of Formula 1 racing (Ferrari) and GT prototype sports car racing, and dabble in photography. Recently, I've (with the help of several cousins) been researching my family history.
AAS: What was your first or favorite car?
RDW: First car: 1959
First new car: 1968 Triumph GT-6, Mk I
Favorite car: 2010 MINI Cooper S
AAS: Tell us about your favorite vacation.
RDW: Hawaii for a total eclipse of the Sun in July 1991. That same year we toured The Grand Canyon, and visited Kitt Peak and Meteor crater, the McDonald Observeratory and . We had several vacations when the kids were young, visiting national parks -- The Rockies in 1984, and west coast in 1985.I, along with Keith Hudson, Joyce Jones, and Richard Battles, was a charter member of the Auburn Astronomical Society when it was founded in the fall of 1980. I served as VP for two years at the beginning, then as President for another couple of years in the early and mid-eighties.
My first telescope was the 80mm, f/15. I quickly realized that it wouldn't take me too long to see all it would show me and was extremely disappointed when I tried to see that big galaxy, M-33. After seeing M-13 through Keith's C-8, and Gallilean shadows in Jupiter through Auburn University's C-14, I knew I had to upgrade. In the spring of 1982, I ordered, and with all othe requisite horror stories that go along with doing same, I received the C-11 the day before our Astronomy Day public star party at Chewacla State Park. First light was (as it was with the 80mm refractor) Saturn. I bought the RV-6 (used) in the late eighties after conquering the collimation-phobia that led me to the f/15.
Now, I particularly enjoy our star parties. My first regional star party was the Deep South Regional Star Gaze in 1987. In addition to being a regular there now, I've also attended similar events such as the Georgia Star Parties, and later the Peach State Star Gazes.
This self portrait was made using the light of a first quarter Moon. Notice the star trails in the sky.
This demonstrates how much the Earth rotated during the exposure. The red streak was a passing aircraft.