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Christian Luginbuhl

Christian Luginbuhl

Christian B. Luginbuhl is an astronomer at the United States Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station, where he has worked on a variety of photometric and astrometric projects since beginning work there as a summer student in 1981. His early papers were involved with star-forming regions and young stars, but recent work has focussed on transient phenomena such as gamma-ray bursters and optical transients. In the last five years he has also published increasingly in the area of outdoor lighting and light pollution control.

Chris came to an interst in astronomy late in high school, when he attended a special short ("interim") class on astronomy. Prior to this he had had a lifelong interst in science in general and the various kinds of biology in particular. He attended Northern Arizona University, majoring at first in physics, but soon he added a second major in botany and minors in mathematics and chemistry, unable to give up his early interests entirely to the stars.

In fact, Chris would have loved to be an exobiologist, but one that actually walked other planets and learned about real alien living things, rather than the data-starved and hypothetical field available to earthlings today. So, astronomy seemed the next-best, but he still spends considerable time and effort in biology and natural history.

The vision of a dark star-filled universe overhead inspired and inspires him still, continuing to drive his interest in astronomy and the preservation of dark skies. There is nothing more refreshing to the mind and soul, after typing obscure commands to glowing computer screens and evaluating the quality of images gathered from silicon detectors and displayed with electrons and phosphors, than to step out under the dark Northern Arizona night, to see the unfathomably distant stars and feel the gentle pine-forest breeze.

Chris has spent thousands of hours under the night sky, peering through amateur-sized telescopes at the myriad wonders available under a dark sky. As a result of this extensive observation of the deep sky, and together with Brian Skiff (now at Lowell Observatory), he published the first comprehensive descriptive manual of deep sky objects as viewed in small amateur telescopes, following in the footsteps of E. J. Hartung and his Astronomical Objects for Southern Telescopes. This book, "Observing Handbook and Catalogue of Deep-Sky Objects" (Cambridge University Press, 1990) emphasizes careful and exacting visual descriptive notes of clusters, nebulae and galaxies, and has become a standard for the field.

Today, outside his direct astronomical work, Chris is involved heavily in light-pollution and development issues, seeking to preserve the highest quality dark skies through careful and considered use of outdoor lighting. And not just for astronomers. He is a founding member of the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition, a section of the International Dark-Sky Association, and is also involved in science education, serving on the Board of Directors of the Flagstaff Festival of Science. As part of this annual Flagstaff Festival of Science, Chris initiated and continues to run an asteroid-naming contest, where children and adult citizens of Arizona suggest names for numbered asteroids discovered by collaborator and Observing Handbook co-author Brian Skiff at Lowell Observatory.

He has given and continues to give many presentations to planning and zoning commissions, city councils and other groups about the values of dark skies and details of lighting codes designed to protect them. He was a principle author of the innovative 1989 Coconino County and Flagstaff outdoor lighting ordinances, and continues to consult with many communities in Arizona and across the country on lighting issues and lighting codes. He is the principal author of the International Dark-Sky Association Outdoor Lighting Code Handbook.

He is finally writing a geneological history and family tree about the descendants of his immigrant Swiss Luginbuhl ancestors, and has sought to re-establish connections with the wide-spread descendants of this family thoughout the world. His interests continue to be too wide and diverse - cabinetry, lichenology, botany, geology, paleontology, atmospheric optics and astronomy. With his wife Carol Vireday and two sons Benjamin and Adrian, he lives outside Flagstaff where the night skies are star-filled and the sounds of birds and the breeze through pine boughs predominate over highways, barks and trains. He remains passionate about the value of knowledge gained through scientific process, about natural skies and landscapes, about living gently on the Earth, and about his family.