John W. Johnson has been an active amateur astronomer for over 50 years. He was raised on a farm in south central in Nebraska, where his love of astronomy and observing was nurtured under the pristine dark skies of Nebraska. His first telescope was a 3-inch Newtonian reflector from Edmund Scientific Company. He soon “upgraded” to a 6-inch reflector, which he designed and assembled himself. His interest in astronomy continued to expand while attending the University of Nebraska earning a BS in Mechanical Engineering.
Over the years, John has been active in the Prairie Astronomy Club in Lincoln, NE, the Pontchartrain Astronomy Society in New Orleans, LA, and for the past 25 years, the Omaha Astronomical Society in Omaha, NE. He has served in leadership positions in all three organizations. John played a key role in re-establishing the viability of the Omaha Astronomical Society in the mid- 1990’s after a period of several years of little activity and dwindling membership. The Omaha Astronomical Society is now a very active astronomy organization with nearly 140 members. He is currently the Astronomy Outreach Coordinator with the Society.
John also is serves on the board of directors for the Nebraska Star Party (NSP), Inc. He is the Director of Outreach and Promotions for NSP, and has been an active member of the annual Nebraska Star Party planning committee for many years. NSP is held annually at the Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area in north central Nebraska. John’s efforts over the years have contributed to the Nebraska Star Party becoming nationally ranked as one of the top star parties in the country. He has been a co-instructor for the acclaimed Beginner’s Astronomy Field School, while also presenting evening “constellation talks” on the observing field.
John has also been the chief proponent and a driving force behind efforts to have the Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area designated as an International Dark Sky Association, “Dark Sky Park”.
John developed and enthusiastically guides a very active astronomy educational outreach program for the Omaha Astronomical Society. His personal commitment and enthusiasm for astronomy outreach is recognized with the fact that 31 members of the Omaha Astronomical Society have received their Astronomical League, Basic level Astronomy Outreach Award, 9 members have their Stellar Level Award, and 6 members, including John, have received the Master Level Award.
While working with all the Papillion & La Vista, Nebraska elementary schools and their Outdoor Education program, over the past 15 years, thousands of the elementary school students have experienced the joy of seeing the stars and planets through society member’s telescopes. He also participates as a judge at the annual Omaha Metro Area Science and Engineer Science Fair, as well as helping organize and proctor Science Olympiad – Astronomy Section competitions in the Omaha metro.
John enjoys many aspects of amateur astronomy including the observing of various categories of astronomical objects, astro-photography, amateur telescope making, researching astronomical history, and as mentioned above, both public and educational astronomy outreach. He has provided numerous lectures to the Omaha Astronomical Society members at regular monthly meetings, and has also spoken at many other public service organizations in the greater Omaha area.
Awards and Recognition
He has received the following Astronomical League Observing Awards, The Messier Award (Honorary Level) , the Lunar Club Certificate, The Double Star Club Certificate, and the AL Astronomy Outreach Award (Master Level). He has also been an Omaha Astronomical Society “Volunteer of the Year” award recipient.
John’s outstanding service to the broader astronomical community was recognized by the Mid-States Region of the Astronomical League, when he was selected as the “Amateur of the Year” for 2013.
Activities and Events
- https://www.nebraskastarparty.org/ - Held annually at Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area in north central Nebraska