James Whitney Young (January 24, 1941) was born in Portland, Oregon, and is currently the resident astronomer of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Table Mountain Observatory (TMO) near Wrightwood, California having been with them for 45 years. A very prolific asteroid observer of both physical properties and astrometric positions, he has discovered some 390 main belt asteroids in the last six years, as well as two NEOs, 2003 BV35 and 2003 RW11, two Trojan asteroids, 2002 VQ and 2003 FE42, three Mars crossers, 2005 SA, 2005 SB, and 2007 WX3, and one extra-galactic supernova, SN 2005eg.
Young was the lead technical guide at the NASA exhibit of the Seattle World's Fair during 1962. It was there he was encouraged to apply for an 'assistant observer' and 'darkroom technician' position at the recently developed Table Mountain Observatory with its new 16-inch telescope which had just begun full operations in late 1962.
Along with Charles F. Capen, Jr. (TMO's first resident astronomer), Young carried out photographic synoptic patrols using specific colors (UV through IR) of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Several technical reports were published of 'patrol' images of Mars during two Martian apparitions (1964-65 and 1966-67). The 1964 inferior conjunction of Venus was well observed from TMO. Color astrophotography was carefully investigated for planetary imaging using recently developed high speed color film emulsions.
With the newly (1966) installed 24-inch Cassegrain/Coudé telescope, Young began his asteroid observations with JPL astronomers, Ellis Miner and Alan Harris. Asteroid rotational rates became his speciality soon thereafter and by 1980, over 30 publications in Icarus with Alan Harris resulted in nearly half of the (then) known rotational rates of these small solar system bodies.
With the advent of powerful lasers, Young became involved with several projects that aimed lasers successfully, first at the Surveyor VII spacecraft on the Moon (1968), later as two laser ranging programs developed at JPL in the 1990s found their marks on low and high earth orbiting satellites, and finally to the Galileo spacecraft some 6 million kilometers from Earth. In each case, Young was responsible for aiming/tracking the 24-inch telescope on each successive target.
Young taught an astronomy extension course for the University of California at Riverside,California in 1969 and 1970 specifically for high school teachers and educators.
Other noteworthy projects Young was involved in included the 1969 installation of a large planetary spectrograph utilizing the Coudé focus of the 24-inch telescope. Spectroscoptic studies of the planet Venus were carried out by JPL astronomers, Andrew and Louise Young, with Young assisting with hypersentization of Eastman Kodak IR spectroscoptic glass plates. Young developed a new technique of cold storage for these extremely sensitive plates. His experimentation of 'clean' and properly washed plates, stored at −70 °C. for over two years, were without increased noise or loss of sensitivity. Previous experimenters could manage around a two month reliability.
In 1998, Young was asked to be an official observer for the 2-Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), a joint venture of CalTech (California Institute of Technology) and the University of Massachusetts (UMass). Young carried out observations for this project at Mount Hopkins (south of Tucson, Arizona) and at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile until 2000, all the while maintaining his full Table Mountain Observatory responsibilities for JPL.
Late in 2002, Young began his current asteroid research, centering around NEOs and comets that have been discovered by several NASA funded NEO search teams such as NEAT, LINEAR, LONEOS, Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), and Spacewatch. With the use of Astrometrica software, Young has become an extremely prolific astrometrist for the Minor Planet Center (MPC) of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The director of the MPC, Dr. Brian G. Marsden has called Young the third most accurate and reliable observer in the world today. He has also co-authored and authored nearly 1300 MPECs (Minor Planet Electronic Circulars) and IAUCs (International Astronomical Union Circulars) during the last 6 years. NASA has recently awarded Young a three-year grant to further his studies of NEOs and comets for JPL and the MPC.
In 2003 Young accepted a new responsibility as 'Astronomy Team Leader' at Table Mountain, and supervises a staff of three employees in maintaining two optical telescopes (0.4 and 0.6 meter cassegrain systems), four CCD cameras, and a computer network of over 20 computers. Young maintains the optical performance of the telescopes, and the vacuum requirements for the CCD cameras. He also is in charge of the telescope scheduling for all visiting astronomers and his staff. TMO recently placed their new on-line webpage for all users as well as the public (see below link).
Young frequently lectures about his work to youth, school, civic, and church groups around the western USA. He recently attended the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) General Assembly 2006 in Prague, Czech Republic. Young gave a presentation on his activities making astrometric observations of NEOs and comets at Table Mountain Observatory in the S236 Symposium on August 14. Young, and his wife Karen (a HS Science and Math teacher), hold an annual star-party for their local communities as an Outreach Program in association with the Table Mountain Observatory. The 10th annual event, held on September 14, 2007, was attended by more than 200 people, with many school children, parents, and boy scouts.
Minor planet 2874 Jim Young is named in his honor. Asteroid names: 78577 JPL is named for the NASA facility where Young has been employed since 1962. 84882 Table Mountain is named for Young's actual work place, near Wrightwood, California. 95939 Thagnesland is named for his maternal grandparents, Thaddeus (1866-1921) and Agnes (1877-1961) Vreeland. 114239 Bermarmi is named for his parents, Bernard (1911-1988) and Mary (1912-1996), and well as his brother, Michael (1937-). 90525 Karijanberg is named for Jim's wife, Karen (1953-) and her parents, Richard (1928-1978) and Janet (1932-1997). 120038 Franlainsher is named for Jim's first wife, Frances (1944-) and her sister, Elaine (1947-) Fisher. 120174 Jeffjenny is named for Jim's first children (with Frances), Jeffrey (1966-) and Jennifer (1967-). 133280 Bryleen is named for Jim's second set of children (with Karen), Bryan (1976-) and Eileen (1979-). 142084 Jamesdaniel is named for James (1951-1978) and Daniel (1957-), the two sons of Bob and Hazel Sealy. 147397 Bobhazel is named for Bob (1927-2002) and Hazel (1930-) Sealy, long time residents of Seaside, Oregon. The Sealy family were, in part, very instrumental in Jim Young's long astronomy career starting from Jim's annual summer vacations in Seaside. Bob Sealy was an amateur astronomer, and started the Seaside Amateur Astronomer's club, as well as taught astronomy classes at the Clatsop County College in Astoria, Oregon. Hazel Sealy was very active in the Miss Oregon Pageant in the 1950's and 60s, and still is an active member of local community affairs. James Sealy tragically lost his life in a boating accident in the ocean waters just outside of Seaside in 1978. Daniel is an amateur astronomer, ham radio operator, and community member while residing in Astoria, Oregon, along with his wife and two children. 115312 Whither is named for Whitney and Heather Young, granddaughters of James Young; two children of son, Jeffrey. 115477 Brantanica is named for Brandon, Brittany and Monica, grandchildren of James Young, and the three children of daughter, Jennifer. 115891 Scottmichael is named for Scott and Michael, grandchildren of James Young, two children of son, Jeffrey. 128297 Ashlevi is named for Ashlie Philpott and Levi Lemley, grandchildren of James Young, and children of daughter, Eileen.
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