TVS History

The Tri-Valley Stargazers has its origins in an astronomy club that was sponsored by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Recreational Group. In 1979 LLNL changed its rules to require that at least 50% of the club members had to be employees or retirees. In the interests of making the club available to a wider audience including children, LLNL employees Pat Walker, Jack Marling, Bill Faatz, Jim Zumstein and many others started the Tri-Valley Stargazers Astronomy Club. The earliest records show 31 members, and the first meetings may have been held at LLNL and the Asbury United Methodist Church in Livermore before moving to the Unitarian Universalist Church Fellowship Hall. Meetings regularly included a "What's Up" talk by a member before the featured presentation.

Jack and Pat started using the club's dark sky site soon after the club was formed. Records show that on 12/09/82 Jack signed a $100 lease agreement with the owners of the property where the site is located. Then a road was built and the south side of the hill was terraced so multiple observers could use the site without blocking each other's views. The site had been referred to as the "Sky Shack" at "The Dark Sky Site", but after a vote by the membership in September 1998, the site was renamed "Hidden Hill Observatory". During the 90's, star parties were held every month at the site.

Jack, Pat and Roger Peterson built the current slide-off roof observatory in 1982-1983, and Jack built the observatory's Coulter 17.5" telescope and mount, which were operational in 1983. He donated the observatory to the club later. Herb Quick started building his fiberglass Home-Dome in 1999 and donated it and his 16" Meade scope to the club in 2007. The Jack Marling Observatory and Herb Quick Observatory are still on the site at H2O. In the early days a log book was kept to keep track of the site's usage.

Early observers at H2O included Pat Walker, Jack Marling and Steve Gottlieb. Jack and Steve were especially interested in planetary nebulae, and were able to observe some nebulae that had never been seen before, some of which were as dark as 16th magnitude. They published their findings in the Webb Society Quarterly Journal.

The club opened a bank account in March of 1980, was incorporated in May, and obtained tax-free status as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1992. TVS presidents have included Dave Anderson, Rich Combs, Alan Gorski, and most recently Chuck Grant starting in 2000.

Mike Rushford set up a computer bulletin board service in November of 1992. This grew into his Eyes-on-the-Skies remote controlled solar observing web site, which was featured in a 1995 Sky and Telescope article.

Dave Anderson set up our first web site. It has appeared under a variety of names, including http://www.tdl.com/~dma/tvs, http://www.tdl.com/~tvs, and http://www.hooked.net/~tvs. Debbie Dyke served as webmaster for a while. then Chuck Grant took over the job in June of 1999. He changed the domain name to the current one, www.trivalleystargazers.org at that time. Hilary Jones has been webmaster since September 2011. The web site was hosted for free by Ron Wickersham for many years, but Hilary moved it to a professional hosting service ( iPage) in 2014.

The Prime Focus newsletter has been published in one form or another for many years. Editors included Hans de Moor, Alain Alchorn, Mike Rushford, Debbie Dyke (who established the current format), and Ken Sperber, who has been editor since March 2010.

Lifetime members have included Jack Marling, Alane Alchorn, Rich Combs, Rich and Barbara Green, Don Machholz, Alan Gorski, and Debbie Dyke. Many of these people have served in several TVS officer positions at one time or another.

Notable members of the Tri-Valley Stargazers have included Jack Marling (founder of Lumicon), Ron Bissinger (past CEO of Aplegen/SBIG), Axel Mellinger (Milky Way panorama), Don Machholz (comet discoverer), Chuck Vaughn (astrophotographer published in S&T), Steve Gottlieb (corrections to NGC and IC catalogs), and Rick McWilliams (inventor of digital settings circles and a telescope manufacturer).

Telescope making workshops were held for several years led by Rich Combs and (now famous optician) Carl Zambutto. Three telescopes from these workshops have won awards at the Riverside Telescope Makers Convention. 15 year old Shannon Cullen won an RTMC Honorable Mention award for his 5.5 inch f/12 Dob. This was the first RTMC award to an active TVS member. Debbie Dyke won and Honorable Mention in 1997. Maggie Halberg won a merit award for her 8 inch f/6 (merit award is the highest of the two levels of RTMC awards). TVS member Carter Roberts (long time EAS president, Chabot Space and Science Center co-founder, RTMC board, noted astrophotographer, etc. etc.) also has won several RTMC awards prior to joining TVS.

Debbie Dyke won the Helen Pillans award in 2005. Debbie performed many vital functions for TVS and EAS for many years, including restoration work on Chabot's 100 year old refractors and operating their 36 inch telescope for many visitors.

Thanks to Chuck Grant for providing a lot of this information, and to Debbie Dyke and Paul Caswell, who started compiling the club's history back in 2000.