PAS History

History of PAS

Archived here is a brief history of the Phoenix Astronomical Society (PAS), along with several other documents of historical interest. This history will be updated as the story of PAS unfolds. We here provide the major details chronicling the evolution of our Society. It is not intended to be a complete historical record. Rather, it is meant to highlight major events and turning points in our organization. A few individuals contributed significantly to this evolution, and so are cited herein. Let it be known that the success of PAS has always depended on the contributions of all its members. A complete history would credit all these individuals and run many pages. Several gaps exist in this record due to difficulties imposed by time and space. At present, for practical considerations, we present this abbreviated summary.

The research for this project tapped many sources. Old newsletters, minutes of meetings, membership rosters, Arizona Corporation Commission filings, college yearbooks, and personal conversations all contributed. We would like to acknowledge Keith Parizek, one of our founding members, Jim Conley and Jerry Belcher, two of our early members, and Leonard Rodriguez and Barbara Stratton of the Phoenix College Office of Alumni and Development, for their invaluable assistance in the reconstruction of this story. Compiled for this website in May of 2005, it represents the first and best attempt at a comprehensive accounting of the evolution of our organization. It is hoped that future PAS historians will continue this story, supplying missing details and other insights. This is our legacy.

Our Founder

Amos Hoff joined the faculty of Phoenix College (PC) in 1937. PC was a junior college at the time, located at 1202 West Thomas Road. In that year he taught physics, mathematics, and engineering shop, and sponsored their astronomy and radio clubs. During his 30 year tenure at PC he served in many positions, including chair of the physics and engineering departments. He earned his B.A. at Manchester College and his M.S. at Northwestern, and was working towards his doctorate at U. of A. at the time of his retirement in 1967. Hoff passed away in 1987 in California. His lifelong enthusiasm for science, and his love of astronomy, carried over into all his endeavors. During his first ten years at PC he developed a vision for public education in astronomy that ultimately led to the creation of PAS.

Under the leadership of Keith Parizek, PAS Treasurer at the time of Hoff's passing, it was decided that a special lecture event should be held in his honor. You can read about the Amos Hoff Memorial Lecture (press button below for details).

We have created a special page on this website dedicated to Dr. Hoff. You can link to it (press button below for details).

The Phoenix College Years

In 1948 Amos Hoff, then Professor of Physics at PC, founded the Phoenix Observatory Association (POA). This group of professional and amateur astronomers was motivated by a grand vision &mdash the construction of a public observatory for the promotion of astronomy. Arizona at that time enjoyed the precious resource of a clear and dark night sky. A 24 inch pyrex mirror blank was obtained and rough grinding was done in an orange grove near downtown Phoenix. This work was done manually and required much effort by a lot of strong arms and hands. The effort to figure the mirror floundered until Jimmy Corn, Phoenix police officer and master optician, took the lead. This resulted in a finished mirror that was good even by professional standards, figured as a 24 inch f7 Newtonian. The mount and housing for this mirror was built by the same group.

The original site for the proposed observatory was on some empty land at 19th Avenue and Dunlap, near the canal (which was at that time was way out in the "country" and had good dark sky). In the interim, Hoff wanted the scope at Phoenix College where it would be more convenient for students and visitors to use. Hoff prevailed. In 1968 the mirror and mount were installed in a electrically powered roll-off building on the PC campus parking lot for use by POA and PC students. Placing the scope at PC resulted in a lot of disappointment by the original group who constructed the telescope, and they gradually lost interest. The seeing was greatly compromised by the heat generated by the asphalt paving at PC.

We have created a special page on this website showcasing the 24 inch telescope. You can link to it (press button below for details).

Negotiations with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors dragged on. During the 60's and 70's the POA met regularly at PC developing this vision and furthering their own education in astronomy. The retirement of Amos Hoff in 1967 brought many changes. Bill Anderson took over as Professor of Physics at PC and liaison to POA, bringing a totally different management style to the collaboration. Around 1973, due to increases in enrollment and parking demand, PC requested the telescope and building be removed. POA took possession of the equipment and held it in storage pending completion of the observatory project. In 1973 plans for that public observatory were drawn by local architect, and amateur astronomer, Max Kaufman and submitted to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. The estimated observatory construction cost of $15,000 was to be financed completely by donations orchestrated through POA. In 1974 Maricopa County rejected the proposal in favor of an equestrian facility replete with the usual glaring arena lighting. It was time to regroup. The observatory project itself, though never completed, was such an ambitious project that it deserves to be remembered.

The Transition Years

In 1974 POA was incorporated as the Phoenix Astronomical Society, a non-profit organization, for the purpose of raising the required funding for the observatory. In 1975 a second site was selected on a half-acre parcel in what was then the 340 acre Paradise Valley Park, with the Paradise Valley School District as the intended recipient. It was hoped the observatory would stimulate interest in astronomy and serve as a resource for science courses in those schools. Negotiations with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors faltered, and in 1976 the mirror was put up for auction. Dr. Keith Parizek, POA President 1960-1966, purchased the mirror for $2600. It was installed at his private observatory in Alpine, AZ shortly thereafter, where it resides to this day. The mount was purchased by Lloyd Horton, then a resident of New River. Its present disposition is unknown.

During the last half of the 70's a schism developed in the membership. A growing number PAS members felt the organization had lost sight of its original goal &mdash observing. The organization fissioned and gave birth to the Saguaro Astronomy Club in 1976-77, still a major player in AZ amateur astronomy. PAS, diminished but still strong, continued its astronomy advocacy activities at PC through 1985, meeting in Room C-102, the science lecture hall. That building has since been demolished; the old site is now home to PC's new Arts Center.

In 1983, then PAS President Stan Gorodenski organized, with the help of other Officers, the first multi-club observing event at the Filthy Five Park in Black Canyon City. In attendance were members from the Prescott Astronomy Club (PAC), Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA), Saguaro Astronomy Club (SAC), and PAS. The effort was continued by the East Valley Astronomy Club (EVAC) and later evolved into what iss now the annual All Arizona Star Party, a tradition that continues to this day. During his two-year tenure as President, Stan also created the position of Editor, making it separate from the Secretary/Treasurer position to better divide responsibilities. With the advent of computer technology, the newsletter was rapidly evolving from its original 3x5 card format to a more readable and flexible full-page format with graphics included. The first official Editor was Bill Krist (1982-1983).

In 1984, PAS ran a design CONTEST among its members to come up with an official society logo. Many creative submissions were received. The membership voted to adopt the design of charter member Harold Moorin, which it retains to this day. We use it on all official society publications including this website. A digitally cleaned, full resolution scan of the original is archived with other documents at the top of this page.

The Brophy College Prep Years

In 1986, when PC needed to raise the fee for the use of their facilities, PAS went looking for a new meeting location. Dan Heim, a member of PAS since 1982, was then teaching physics at Brophy College Preparatory (BCP). Brophy is located at 4701 N. Central, just south of Camelback Road and not far from the original meeting site at PC. He negotiated a deal with the administration of BCP wherein PAS would use their Physics Lab for meetings in exchange for free attendance by members of the BCP community. This brought many new members into PAS including BCP faculty and students. In fact, we had three BCP physics students as Presidents during this period.

Some of our most well-known speakers appeared at this venue, including Clyde Tombaugh (recruited by Keith Parizek for the Amos Hoff Memorial Lecture), Frs. Martin McCarthy and George Coyne of the Vatican Observatory, Tucson space artist Kim Poor, and comet hunter David Levy. As an interesting side note, Levy brought his first photographs of Comet Shoemaker-Levy to a meeting in early 1994, allowing PAS members the first look at this historic comet several months before it crashed into Jupiter.

During the last part of the 90's, PAS membership declined due to some bad management and a less-than-stellar speaker series. In 1998, PAS revised its By-Laws to form a new Constitution that reflected the organizational changes required by lower membership, providing more flexibility and adaptability. One of these changes was the creation of Directorships, appointed by the President, to fulfill specific society functions such as Facilities, Multimedia, Photographer, etc. In 1999, Heim, now acting as PAS Facilities Director, left BCP and negotiated a similar meeting arrangement with Valley Academy, a small charter school in north Phoenix.

The Valley Academy Years

From 1999 to 2004 PAS held its meetings at Valley Academy at 1520 West Rose Garden Lane. This move took us considerably farther north in Phoenix to an upscale area that held the promise of drawing new members from the school and surrounding community. Perhaps because our meeting venue was now in a "multi-purpose room" that also served as a cafeteria, or perhaps due to continued errors in management and publicity, the expected membership increase never materialized. Initial problems with multimedia capabilities were solved by the purchase and construction of our own equipment, including a multimedia console containing most of what would be needed by our speakers.

In 2002, we became a member society of the Astronomical League. The League consists of hundreds of member societies, and acts a a powerful lobby on the behalf of amateur astronomers all over the continent. Through the League we are able to obtain, at a reasonable cost, group liability insurance for our many and varied events.

It was during this era that PAS greatly expanded its outreach efforts, lead primarily by Terri Finch, PAStimes Editor. We started doing many more public star parties for schools, church groups, scout troops, and other civic organizations, as well as general and multimedia education events at venues like the Arizona Science Center and the Challenger Space Center. These efforts yielded a small increase in PAS membership and a lot of good publicity. Another of her innovations was a change in the meeting structure to include a separate meeting each month called "Meeting of the Minds." Starting in April of 2003, PAS officers and other interested members began meeting at local restaurants one week before our regularly scheduled meetings for the purpose of handling Society business and planning. This freed up time that would otherwise subtract from what is available to our speakers, and increased the efficiency of our regular meetings.

In another major development, PAS moved into the "cyber age" with the launching of its website by William Finch, our first Webmaster. Having a presence on the internet is almost required these days to compete for membership with the other astronomy clubs in the area. But before any long-term benefits could accrue, another opportunity presented itself for a new and better meeting location. Again, Dan Heim, still acting as our Facilities Director, made a connection with a charter school that had just constructed a new campus in north Scottsdale.

The Foothills Academy Year

Our 2004-2005 meeting season was hosted by Foothills Academy College Preparatory (FA) at 7191 East Ashler Hills Drive. Though we are still the Phoenix Astronomical Society, this move took us even farther north out of Phoenix and into north Scottsdale. Constructed in 2003, this school had a beautiful new campus with multimedia-ready classrooms, including digital projection systems and broadband internet access. Serving a largely upscale clientele in this area, it again held the promise of increased membership as well as a more professional venue for our speakers. In a move to reduce expenses, our newsletter PAStimes, under the Editorship of Terri Finch and Matt Kohl, was made available for electronic delivery during the 2004 season. Members with internet access can now download our newsletter directly from our website. In 2005 PAS elected Terri Finch as President, the first woman to hold this position. As a longtime member, and PAStimes Editor from 1993 to 2005, she was eminently qualified to serve us in this capacity.

The Paradise Valley Community College Years

After one year at FA, the membership voted to change our venue to PVCC. There were no problems with our previous venue, save for a longer drive for several members, but PVCC presented some excellent opportunities. Among these were access to their observatory, larger meeting rooms (their Library and Physics Lab) with full multimedia support, and the chance to collaborate with their own student Astronomy Club.  Dave Hellmann, PVCC liaison and Physics Lab Tech, both solicited and facilitated this transition. It was an opportunity too good to pass up. As we begin our 2005-2006 season at PVCC and have been there since.

Black Mountain Campus of PVCC

In 2015, while Sam Insana was president, Aquila Hall was open at the Black Mountain campus of PVCC.  Included with the building is a large pad to the west of the building which was designed to support up to a dozen amateur telescopes, including power.  PAS began holding monthly public star parties there to take advantage of the excellent facilities and darker skies available in Cave Creek.  In 2018 an automated observatory was added by the college to the end of the cement pad which included a dome, 14" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and Paramount GOTO mount with cameras and software.  Mike Marron is our current president.

POA and PAS Honor Roll

Any history of this organization would be remiss without mention of some of our distinguished early members. We cite here, in alphabetical order, those individuals.

Byron Barry: President of POA for 6 years and builder of Pomelo Park Observatory

Max Bray: founder of Braeside Observatory and professional optician

Lewis Boyd: pioneer in telescope automation controls

Stan Gorodenski: PAS President (82-83) and coordinator for the first All Arizona Star Party

Lloyd Horton: expert telescope builder and astronomical resource

Robert E. Hurley: dome and telescope builder and legal eagle who incorporated our society

Evered Kreimer: pioneer in cold camera photography and deep-sky explorer

Dick and Helen Lines: preeminent variable star observers who worked out of their observatory in Mayer

Don Loomis: master optician for many world-class large telescopes

Gene Lucas: [information pending]

John Mallas: co-author of the Kramer-Mallas book "The Messier Album"

Pete Manly: author of several books on astronomy and telescopes

Harold Moorin: designer of the PAS logo and first lifetime member

Chuck Nash: refractor expert and longstanding Treasurer of both POA and PAS

Keith Parizek: President of POA for 7 years, prolific builder of telescopes, mountings, and five observatories

Harry Simmons: master machinist and telescope mount technician

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