Jack and me hiking on Kauai in 2017

I spent my early years near Los Angeles where I have no memories of ever seeing stars. This was probably due to the LA light pollution and air pollution. At the age of 9, my family moved to northwest Missouri. On clear nights there the skies were amazing. After starting a paper route at age 12, one of my first purchases was a 60 mm refractor. The telescope, like a lot of those sold today in department and discount stores, had terrible optics and a flimsy mount. But I was able to get good views of lunar craters, follow the moons of Jupiter, and see Saturn's rings. I was hooked.

In high school, I hung out at the Missouri Western State College planetarium, then run by Russell Maag. Russell gave me lots of advice on how to pursue a career in astronomy.

I attended the University of Missouri in Kansas City, where I spent many nights at the campus observatory, on the roof of what is now Royal Hall, observing with Stan Warkoczewski. I also joined the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, eventually serving as their president my last year in college. I can honestly say, I learned more practical astronomy as a member of this amateur club than in any of my undergraduate classes!

After leaving Kansas City, I continued to observe with local astronomy clubs. These include: the Central Florida Astronomical Society (Orlando), the Baltimore Astronomical Society, the Astronomical Society of New Haven, The Thames Amateur Astronomical Society (New London, CT), Cleveland County (NC)Astronomical Society, the Las Vegas Astronomical Society, and the Kauai Educational Association for Science and Astronomy.

I have played major roles in the construction of several observatories (see Other Links). While president of the ASKC, I initiated the Powell Observatory project, which houses a 30" (0.75 m) Newtonian. I assisted with rebuildng and installing an 8" (0.20 m) Alvin Clark refractor in a new observtory built for it at the Naval Academy. And I constructed and served as the initial director of the Coast Guard Academy Astronomical Observatory in Stonington, CT, which houses a 20" (0.51 m) Ritchey-Cretien Cassegrain telescope.

I earned a M.S. in physics from the University of Central Florida and a M.A. and Ph.D. a from The Johns Hopkins University, both in planetary science. My dissertation was on the atmosphere of Titan (Saturn's largest moon). For many years early in my career I was a professor of physics and astronomy. I have been a college administrator since 2000. Currently I am the Chancellor of Methodist College in Peoria, Illinois.

I have authored the Deep-Sky column in the Reflector magazine since 2010 and regularly contribute articles published in Astronomy Technology Today.

 

Click here for more
Home Newest Images About James Dire Image Gallery Publications Other Links