Charles S. Douglas 1923-1998

Amateur Astronomer

How do you sum up 15 years of friendship in a few lines? It's nearly impossible.

This past fall (1998) I lost one of my dearest friends and observing companions, Chuck Douglas. On these pages are just a few of the many photographs I have of Chuck that have been taken over the years I have known him. For those of you that knew Chuck, may they serve as a reminder of the person that was such an influence in so many lives.

It seems a fitting place to start at the beginning and the day I met Chuck. A hot summer day in 1984 found me unloading the moving van into my "new" house in Roeland Park, Kansas. As I carefully removed the footlocker containing my Celestron C-8 and was carrying it to the house Chuck emerged from next door and scurried over to introduce himself. He said, "My name is Charles Douglas and if what I think is in the trunk really is a telescope, we are going to be great friends!" He was right on both counts.

Within weeks I had joined the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, helped "officially" open the then new Powell Observatory near Louisburg, Kansas and met a whole new group of friends. Chuck had been one of the driving forces in getting that observatory built and over the next decade we would make what was probably hundreds of trips there together. It could have been making the 70 mile round-trip for an evening of observing or a trip to "wash the windows" as he used to say. Powell Observatory was Chuck's pride and joy and most members probably have no idea of the number of times he slipped down to to Louisburg to fix some of the little things that most people just took for granted.

The great times we spent together at the observatory are too numerous to mention. Be it a society picnic or one of the hundreds of public nights that our team put on, there were so many wonderful moments. Watching Halley's Comet rise over the hedge row or Mars reveal its secrets in the old 29 inch scope. Sneaking a peek at huge chunks of a comet crash into Jupiter while a line of people that wouldn't quit stretched across the parking lot.

Chuck and I shared a love of daytime astronomy as well... observing the sun. As the solar maximum headed towards its last peak in the late 1980's and early 90's we spent hour upon hour checking out the sunspots in white light and dreamed about getting one of those fancy H-Alpha filters to see the prominences and flares. One day I arrived home to see that Chuck had taken the big step and a Daystar filter hung from the back of his Questar.

I quickly learned that being retired most certainly had its advantages. Chuck could set up and observe the sun and not have to worry about going to work! Soon we had figured out an easy way to capture what we were seeing on video tape and that way I got to see what I missed after I got home from work. In all the years of watching the sun... with the recorded extremes in the front yard being 112 degrees (f) one summer and a record cold -18 (f) one winter we watched parts of two solar cycles and treated a couple of generations of neighbor kids (and parents) to all sorts of views.

Another advantage of daytime astronomy was the fact that we could do educational programs on the sun to kids in school. For the past couple of years Chuck and I had hosted a group of school kids from the University of Kansas for a day long solar workshop in my front yard. (See photos) I guess its fair to assume that over the years our neighbors have also gotten used to us hanging out on the lawn at all hours for a variety of reasons.

While its fairly light-polluted, we saw our share of sights over the years. Planet groupings, meteor showers, Iridium Flares and even some occasional deep sky with my 16 inch scope. One evening I think we had half the block and all the police in Roeland Park gathered around our scopes gazing at Jupiter. So many of those evenings were filled with conversations that ran the full length of the gamut. Sure, they may have started off on astronomy, but depending on each of our moods they usually turned to other matters.

Fifteen years is a lot of time for things to happen and over that time we shared each others joys as well as our sorrows. The afternoon we had Chuck's memorial service the skies cleared and it was perfectly clear. The pesky "elliptical" clouds, as Chuck used to call them, were even absent. It was only fitting that we do a little solar observing so as we left the service I passed around a glass solar filter and at zero power we all observed a fairly large sunspot group.

The skies remained clear and that evening we headed to Powell Observatory for an evening of meteor watching. And as if in tribute to Chuck, we were treated to the best meteor shower I have ever witnessed. More than one person commented that Chuck must have been sweeping up the sky above us and kicking all those great bolide meteors down for us to see.

Hardly a clear day goes by that I don't think about hopping over the chain-link fence into Chuck's backyard for a quick view of the sun. It will take quite some time to realize that my trusted observing companion will never be there to greet me again. He will be greatly missed.

- Vic Winter January/1999

Chuck Photos #1 - Chuck Photos #2 - Chuck Photos #3

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