ENRICHMENT LECTURE STAFF
Eclipse '99 - Voyage to Darkness aboard Royal Olympic's World Renaissnce
Tom Bopp was observing M-70, a globular cluster in the constellation of Sagittarius, when the slight glow that was to bear his name slowly drifted into his field of view. He didn't know it at the time, but that "slight glow" on the night of July 22, 1995 was a giant comet between the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter, an amazing distance for a comet to be visible.
An avid amateur astronomer, Bopp was enjoying a night of stargazing with friends from a dark desert site about 90 miles southwest of his home in Arizona. The friends observed the comet for an hour to check for motions against background stars. It did indeed move - and Bopp decided to drive home to report his findings to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the clearinghouse for all astronomical discoveries. The phone call early the next morning from the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, home of the IAU, confirmed the discovery of the comet. "That was one of the most exciting moments of my life," Bopp says.
Professional astronomer Alan Hale was observing M-70 at the same time and also spotted the comet. By convention, comets are named for their discoverers. The newcomer officially became Comet Hale-Bopp.
Born in Colorado, Bopp moved the following year with his family to Youngstown, Ohio. His interest in astronomy came early; Bopp remembers watching a meteor shower with his father when he was only 3. His father taught him about the constellations, the Aurora Borealis and the planets. Like many children, he spent hours in his backyard stargazing, watching for "shooting stars" and dreaming of travel in space.
Bopp graduated from Chaney High School in 1967 and joined the Air Force. He was stationed in the Philippines for 18 months and was thrilled to witness the green flash several times. He spent his final year in the service at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, where he met his wife, Charlotte. They have a daughter, April and a granddaughter.
Bopp and his new family returned to Ohio after his discharge and he enrolled at Youngstown State University to major in business administration. Among his elective courses, he said his favorite was astronomy. He became a member of the Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society in the Warren, Ohio area. "My particular area of interest is in deep sky objects and I put the club's 16-inch reflector to good use along with now astronaut Ron Parise and other friends."
Ted Pedas, the coordinator of Royal Olympic's Comet Rendezvous Cruise, was the planetarium lecturer at Youngstown State University at the same time that Bopp was enrolled.
Bopp moved to the Phoenix area in 1980 and became active with the "unofficial" North Phoenix Alternative Astronomical Society. He worked as a parts manager for a large asphalt and concrete supply company until he decided to quit to meet his demand for speaking engagements across the country - and across the world.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the world of science and astronomy, Youngstown State University awarded Tom Bopp an honorary Doctor of Science degree.
E-mail: Ted Pedas email@example.com