A planetary imaging pioneer passed away in Miami, Florida.
It is with a profound sense of loss that we announce the passing of long-time planetary observer and Sky & Telescope contributor Donald C. Parker on the evening of February 22, 2015 from lung cancer. Parker was a pioneer of planetary astrophotography and an inspiration to generations of imagers around the world.
Born in 1939, Parker was raised in Highland Park, Illinois, where he caught the astronomy bug at a young age. He built several telescopes during the 1950s, including an 8-inch f/7.5 Newtonian reflector that was featured in the November 1957 issue of Sky & Telescope.
Donald earned a medical degree from Northwestern University and served as a medical officer in the United States Navy, where he conducted research into diving physiology.
After relocating to Florida to begin a career in anesthesiology, Donald resumed his fascination with observing the planets, particularly Mars. He was a former director of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (A.L.P.O.), where he became acquainted with the Lowell Observatory astronomer Charles F. Capen, who encouraged Don to refine his observing skills and introduced Don to advanced planetary photographic techniques. Don quickly mastered the extensive darkroom technique of stacking images and rose to the forefront of amateur planetary photography. In 1988 he co-authored the book “Introduction to Observing and Photographing the Solar System” with Capen and fellow amateur Thomas A. Dobbins.
He continued to be a pioneer at the forefront of planetary observing and imaging techniques, and played a role in developing many of the methods used in digital planetary imaging today, as well as being credited with the discovery of features on Mars and Jupiter. Many of his 20,000+ images of the planets have supported professional researchers at NASA, JPL, and other institutions.
Parker co-authored scores of papers in scientific journals, popular magazines, and news sites worldwide, including a paper in Nature published only weeks ago. In 1994, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 5392 Parker in his honor for his contributions to solar system science. A frequent speaker at amateur conventions, he delighted audiences with his colorful and often self-deprecating humor.
As an astrophotographer myself, I had the honor of befriending Parker more than a decade ago. We traded imaging techniques and discussed the latest developments in camera technology and software. Parker was my inspiration to begin imaging the planets after seeing his series of images recording the impact scars of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in the cloud tops of Jupiter in 1994. He was never guarded about his techniques and gladly shared them with anyone who was interested. He maintained his razor-sharp intelligence, wit, and an unfailingly kind disposition to the end. It’s difficult to convey in words just how funny and entertaining Don was. I’m certainly going to miss our frequent conversations about the latest discoveries in the solar system, which often focused on how amateurs contributed to them, as well as his famous "joke of the day." Donations in Parker’s name can be made to the Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/obituaries/article11022644.html