August 26, 2008 #040 - Walter Scott Houston

I have been slowly going through my collection of Sky & Telescope magazines saved back to the 60's and even a few in the 50's when I could afford to buy one. I favor two columns more than others. One was "Telescope Making" "or "Gleanings for the ATM", depending on the year, and the other was "Deep-Sky Wonders" by Walter Scott Houston.

"Scotty" as they called him, was always shown in pictures with his trademark pipe. He began his articles in 1946 and he continued them for an amazing 49 years until his death in 1993. Each month he described a few observable deep sky objects with little observing challenges thrown in for spice. He liked to raise the bar and test his readers skills of observation and some times shake up established notions of what was quoted as the limits of observation. He had voluminous files of correspondence with people answering his challenges over the years.

His articles chronicle and document how observation and amateur telescopes have changed as the years have passed since mid century. Larger and more powerful amateur equipment have even surpassed what professional astronomers used at that time. Limiting magnitudes have crept ever higher not to mention fantastic digital pictures where the observer stacks hundreds of images and even use adaptive optics, controlled and processed by computers that would have been science fiction back then.

Some of us still enjoy chasing a small fuzzy with more mundane telescopes and a naked eye. These are more akin to the scopes of that time period. If you still practice this type of observing then his articles will be fresh and interesting to you. I am always finding something new in his columns. If you don't have access to back issues of Sky &Telescope you can purchase Stephan James O'meara's book (Deep-Sky Wonders by Walter Scott Houston a selection and commentary).

Clear Sky - Rich

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