The strange life of Robert Burnham, Jr.

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Robert Burnham, Jr., with the Pluto Telescope at Lowell Observatory.

Many of you who are experienced amateur astronomers know intimately Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, the observing guide originally written in the 1960s by the curious astronomer Robert Burnham, Jr. (Not to be confused with Robert Burnham, the longtime editor at Astronomy magazine.) 

The Handbook is still a mainstay of the libraries of many observers, a hodgepodge of observing data, tales and stories, photographs, poetry, and ephemera that introduced a whole generation to many deep-sky objects. It is still in heavy use by some although much of the data was outdated even when the book was published in the 60s, let alone for the Dover Publications update in the 1970s. 

In any case, an old friend, journalist Tony Ortega, long wrote crafted a beautiful story about Burnham’s unusual life. It makes quite a “tribute to Bob,” as Tony says. 

I hope you’ll read it and enjoy it here . . .

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