Press Release

California Amateur Astronomer Wins ASP Keck Auction

By SpaceRef Editor
January 30, 2003
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Walter Cruttenden of Newport Beach, California will
experience what many amateur astronomers would
consider to be a dream come true. Later this year,
Cruttenden will join professional astronomer Geoff Marcy
in the control room of the W. M. Keck Observatory in
Hawai’i as Marcy and his colleagues hunt for extrasolar
planets. Cruttenden earned this opportunity by
submitting the winning bid of $16,000 in an auction
hosted on eBay. The auction was a fund-raiser for the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP).

“I’m totally thrilled to be meeting someone on the leading
edge of discovery,” says Cruttenden. “I’ve never done
anything like this before, and I’ve never even been above
13,000 feet,” he adds, referring to the 13,800-foot
altitude of the W. M. Keck Observatory.

On a date yet to be determined, Cruttenden and a guest
will be flown to the big island of Hawai’i for a 5-day trip.
While in Hawai’i, they will receive a VIP tour of the W. M.
Keck Observatory (home of two 10-meter telescopes, the
world’s largest optical telescopes) on the summit of
Mauna Kea, enjoy a dinner hosted by Geoff Marcy, and
spend a night in the observatory’s control room (located
in Kamuela) as Marcy and his colleagues search for
planets orbiting other stars.

Marcy is an astronomer at the University of California,
Berkeley. Along with Paul Butler of the Carnegie
Institution of Washington, Marcy co-leads the team that
has discovered approximately 70 of the 100 or so known
planets outside the solar system. “I love the Astronomical
Society of the Pacific and I’m honored to have helped
fund its activities,” says Marcy. “The ASP has the
wonderful goal of bringing the beauty and mystery of the
universe to young folks in the classroom, and to
inquisitive folks of all ages.”

The auction was held on eBay from January 14 to January
23. Proceeds from the auction will support the ASP’s
nationwide education and outreach programs. To show its
support to the amateur astronomy community, the ASP
plans to donate 5 percent of the winning $16,000 bid to
an amateur astronomy club of Cruttenden’s choice.

“We’re delighted with the success of this fund-raising
experiment,” says ASP Executive Director Mike Bennett.
“We sincerely appreciate Mr. Cruttenden’s donation, and
we thank the other bidders for their interest as well.”

Cruttenden, age 52, is the chairman and CEO of
Cruttenden Partners in Newport Beach. “I’m so excited
about this trip. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he
says. Cruttenden has a long-standing interest in
astronomy, particularly the connection between what
ancient astronomers knew about the sky and what
astronomers like Geoff Marcy are learning today with
modern technology.

The ASP extends its deepest thanks to Geoff Marcy, the
W. M. Keck Observatory staff, and eBay for their
cooperation.

The non-profit Astronomical Society of the Pacific was
founded in 1889 in San Francisco and is still
headquartered there today. The ASP has since grown into
an international society. Its membership is spread over
all 50 states and 70 countries and includes professional
and amateur astronomers, science educators of all levels,
and people in the general public. The ASP publishes the
bimonthly Mercury magazine for its members, a technical
journal for professional astronomers called Publications
of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and an on-line
teachers’ newsletter. The ASP also coordinates Project
ASTRO, a national astronomy education program. The
Society produces a catalog and website of extensive
astronomy-related products for educators and the public.

SpaceRef staff editor.