Star Party Speakers

Star Party Speaker give their talks on Friday and Saturday afternoon

An Invitation to Participate in Astronomical League Observing Programs
Paul Runkle

Paul Runkle was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He has a B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Physics
from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of
Michigan. Paul’s career has focused on applications of machine learning across a variety of disciplines,
including acoustic signal processing, image processing, and health care data. He served as a Principal
Engineer with XtremeSpectrum and the Microelectronic Center of North Carolina and served as CEO for
the tech start-ups Signal Innovations Group and Biospatial. Paul has six patents, focused on
communication system design. Paul is currently semi-retired and lives with his wife, Jenn, in Chapel Hill,
NC. Paul and Jenn have five adult children.

Paul first became interested in astronomy at the age of eight years old when he learned that the light
arriving from the star Sirius left the star in the year when he was born. After that he was hooked. Paul
has owned a variety of telescopes and binoculars. His most used instruments are currently an 18”
Obsession Dobsonian, a 10” Meade Lightbridge Dob, a 70mm Tele Vue Ranger Refractor, and a pair of
Canon 10×42 image stabilized binoculars. Paul firmly believes that the best telescope to use is the one
that you have and to make the most out of it and your naked eye. While Paul has started to experiment
with astro-imaging and photometry, his primary interests are in deep sky observing. Someday, he wants
to attend to the Texas Star Party and travel to Australia to spend some time under southern skies.

The Fight for Dark Skies
Tom Reinert, 
President of DarkSky International
 (the International Dark-Sky Association).

Tom Reinert is a retired Washington, D.C. lawyer who spent most of his career representing airlines and railroads in labor and employment matters, including extensive experience translating scientific experts for lay decision-makers. He has assisted the International Dark-Sky Association on policy and legal issues for almost a decade, inspired by seeing the Andromeda Galaxy with his naked eyes from atop Kitt Peak. His prior environmental activism includes a decade fighting water pollution with a local riverkeeper organization, the South River Federation, on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Currently residing in the City of Fairfax, Virginia, he is an active member of NOVAC. He and his wife Chris travel extensively in the Western United States seeking dark sky locations, and he is a member of the Tucson Astronomical Association. He is a graduate of Harvard College (where he never took an astronomy or physics course) and the Harvard Law School (where he never took an environmental law course). Tom’s presentation will be a report to the amateur astronomy community on the current status of IDA and the fight against growing light pollution, focusing on increasing awareness of light pollution, changes in the organization now known as DarkSky International, and how amateur astronomers can make a difference in reducing light pollution in the years ahead.

Solar Cycles
Walter Fowler

Walter Fowler has a scientific background (MD PhD) but no formal training in astronomy.  He knew about the 11 year cycle of sunspots but not the solar magnetic fluctuations that are responsible.  His talk will be about what he has found out.

AstroHopper App
Jon Stewart-Taylor

Jon Stewart-Taylor has been an amateur astronomer for 40 years, with the Northern Virgina Astronomy Club, CHAOS, and the Cape Fear Astronomical Society. He observes mostly deep-sky objects, and participates in public observing and outreach sessions.  


Jon uses the free application AstroHopper with a cell phone as a finding aid on 4″, 8″, and 10″  telescopes under suburban and rural skies, especially when lack of good guide stars or light pollution makes star hopping difficult.  In this program he’ll demonstrate the installation, setup, and use of AstroHopper as a push-to guidance system for alt-azimuth telescope mounts.  Use of AstroHopper’s user defined objects and “watch lists” will be introduced, and a sample watch list will be made available.  Weather permitting, there will be a live demonstration under night skies.

A brief History of Astrophotography and Long Film exposure on a Variety of Instruments
Tony Pilato /NASA Ambassador

Tony will discuss a brief history of Astrophotography. Tony will also discuss black & white, and color photographic films used to capture images of Deep Sky objects, Eclipses and Transits. Tony will also talk about types of film, reciprocity law failure, film hypersensitization, long exposures, and a variety of techniques used to capture and create the final image.

Anthony Pilato’s interest in astronomy began when he was 12 years old,
and received his first telescope. He quickly became interested in
astronomy and astrophotography, and built a 10 Inch Newtonian Reflector
and a photographic darkroom. He attended Rochester Institute of
Technology to receive a degree in  PhotoScience and Engineering, and
spent 20 years in photographic manufacturing, holding positions which
ranged from process engineering to operations management.  He was the
Vice President of the Kopernik Astronomical Society in Vestal NY for 6

Anthony made a career change and became the Astronomer/Lead Educator at
Kopernik Observatory and Space Education Center for several years.
Anthony has now moved to South Central Virginia and has retired to
pursue  long exposure film astrophotography of deep sky objects.