2013 Leslie Peltier Award: John E. Bortle
The Astronomical League held its annual meeting, ALCon 2013, Summer Skies, Southern
Hospitality, in Atlanta, Georgia, July 24 – July 27, 2013.
The annual awards banquet was held the evening of July 27, 2013. This year’s recipient of the Leslie C. Peltier Award is John E. Bortle.
Mr. Bortle’s long and prolific observing career has encompassed a number of fields of study. An avid comet observer from the time his interest in these objects was initially stirred by the
appearance of Comet Arend-Rolard in 1957, he has accrued many thousands of observations of well over 300 individual comets seen between 1957 and the present. He authored Sky & Telescope’s column titled Comet Digest that addressed current comet activity and history. It ran monthly in the magazine from 1977 until 1994. Since then, John has drawn upon his broad knowledge of observational astronomy in penning a number of additional articles for Sky & Telescope magazine addressing various comet-relate and other observing topics. In recognition of his work, the asteroid #4763, Bortle, was named in his honor.
Concurrent with his decades-spanning interest in comets, John has exhibited an unflagging
enthusiasm for observing variable stars in conjunction with the AAVSO. During his 50 year
association with that organization he has amass more than 205,000 estimates, mostly of
cataclysmic-type variables. His nightly vigil under the stars in following their unpredictable
fluctuations still goes on whenever skies are clear above his W.R.Brooks Observatory. In the course of this variable star work, beginning in 1970 he instituted and assumed editorship of the organization’s AAVSO Circular, a monthly newsletter devoted to documenting the current activities of eruptive and other unusual variable stars. This publication was circulated among publication’s 30 year history, until retiring the newsletter in 2000.
John is also known as the creator of The Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, first published in Sky & Telescope magazine in 2001. The scale currently appears on their website, as well as numerous others operating internationally. Its descriptive nine point rating scale is intended for use by serious observers to allow a more critically evaluation/description of sky quality at their various observing locations. Today the scale enjoys wide usage as a marked improvement over simply reporting limiting magnitude values. It is particularly favored by comet and deep sky enthusiasts.
Peltier Award 2013 presented to John E. Bortle (right) by AL President, Carroll Iorg (center), with AAVSO Director, Arne Henden (left).
AAVSO winners and others at the AAVSO winner meeting.