Sad news for amateur astronomy

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, June 20, 2011

Very sad news greeted me when I came into the office this morning. Michael Bakich informed me that he had heard of David Healy’s death, which actually happened a few days ago. For those who didn’t know him or know of him, David Healy (1936–2011) was one of the greatest astroimagers around and was for many years a superb writer and contributor to amateur astronomy at large. A contributing editor of Astronomy magazine, he not only shot thousands of spectacular photos from the 1970s onward, but also wrote many superb articles about astroimaging in Astronomy, Deep Sky, and other periodicals. He was a longtime member of the Astronomical Society of Long Island.

Photo credit: Michael Stecker
Healy was a Los Angeles native but became a New Yorker during his career, which made him a noted auto industry stock analyst for the firm Drexel, Burnham, Lambert. He frequently was quoted in print or appeared in news broadcasts commenting on the auto industry and its finances, particularly during the 1980s. He was a longtime member of the Astronomical Society of Long Island.

I got to know David in the late 1970s, when he began sending me envelopes filled with spectacular images of galaxies and nebulae for my publication Deep Sky Monthly. He contributed frequently to that publication and its successor, the quarterly Deep Sky, and was an early contributor to Astronomy, as well. I spent many moments at astronomical meetings chatting with David, and I have memories of great fun with him at Stellafane during the early years. He was particularly fond of writing about astrophoto “bloopers,” one in a series that covered everything you needed to know about imaging the sky. His favorite blooper was the “foot binary,” double images produced when you inadvertently kicked the telescope’s tripod in the dark during an exposure.

When around 1990 Drexel, Burnham, Lambert began to slide into trouble with regard to Wall Street hijinks, Healy left New York and retired to Arizona, where he established the comically named Junk Bond Observatory. In his retirement, David began focusing heavily on asteroid work, and the 32-inch Ritchey-Chrétien scope at his observatory was involved in numerous discoveries. A 1999 asteroid discovery was named 66479 Healy in David’s honor, so that he lives on in the solar system as well as in the memory of the thousands of amateur astronomers who became better people because they knew him, myself included.

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