"The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons."
- Edwin Powell Hubble

A Portion of the Clyde E. Tombaugh Window at the UU Church of Las Cruces

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A Brief History of the Astronomical Society of Las Cruces

Clyde Tombaugh"The Astronomical Society of Las Cruces held its first informal meeting at the home of Clyde and Patsy Tombaugh on October 6,1951, with 19 persons interested in astronomy present. An organizational meeting a few months later elected officers, with Clyde as the first President, and in time there was a governing board. Incorporation in the state of New Mexico occurred in 1967. Our goals have always been Scientific, Educational, and Recreational activities."

These first opening lines were written by Clyde Tombaugh. Deep in the archives of ASLC, I found a two page handwritten outline of a short history of ASLC. It is undated and the hand is unmistakably Clyde's. He outlines the beginning of ASLC and lists some of the highlights of our organization over the years. Clyde continues:

Jed Durrenberger"Early meetings held once a month, were often at the homes of members. When larger attendance required a public room, we met, among other places, the Las Cruces School District Offices for many years and later on the New Mexico State University Campus. The monthly speakers included members, NMSU Astronomy Dept. graduate students, faculty members, and occasional visiting noted scientist. Lecture subjects ranged over astronomy, space, and related topics."

Walter HaasIn the late 1950's and the early 1960's, the ASLC participated in the national Moonwatch Program, an amateur project to secure needed orbital positional data on the early Russian and American artificial satellites. Members took part in the late nocturnal team watches. Jed Durrenberger and others provided the needed small telescopes. In 1968 the ASLC hosted a joint meeting of the Western Amateur Astronomers, the Southwest Region of the Astronomical League, and the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers on the NMSU campus. An unexpected byproduct of this gathering was the discovery of comet Bally-Clayton 1968d. In 1990 Stuart Wilber and other members made the discovery observation of a rare and extremely conspicuous Great White spot on Saturn. In recent years many members have taken their telescopes to dark-sky sites for star parties away from city lights. A few have obtained beautiful video and CCD images of popular celestial objects. The ASLC belongs to the Astronomical League, a large national organization of similar clubs.

- Contributed by ASLC Historian, Joseph Mancilla