Teresa Bippert-Plymate has been an avid lover of Astronomy for over 30 years. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Physics/Astronomy from Sonoma State University in 1984. She completed graduate studies in Astronomy at the University of Arizona and James Cook University in Australia, but had to drop out before finishing a doctoral thesis. Maybe one day!
She worked for the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory (SO) on the MIPS (Multiband Imaging Photometer for the Spitzer Space Telescope) project team. She spent 7 years on Kitt Peak as the Technical Specialist at the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope (MMP), and 2 years as a Technical Writer for the SOLIS Project (Synoptic Optical Long-Term Investigations of the Sun) for the National Solar Observatory. After that, she was an Interferometry Technical Specialist with SO’s Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) team. The LBTI team also built a Bracewell nulling interferometer and a coronagraph for the MMT and its twin in Chile, the Magellan telescope. All three of these instruments were designed specifically to detect and even image exoplanets. She had the opportunity to observe at Kitt Peak (MMP, KP Vacuum Telescope, Fourier Transform Spectrometer), at the MMT telescope, and on the LBT. Unfortunately at the end of 2010 the LBTI team lost their funding due to the sequestration and she became retired.
But even while working in the field of Astronomy, she was heavily involved in the amateur side. While in school she joined the Sonoma County Astronomical Society (SCAS), where she ended up as Secretary, Treasurer, and was in the second year as President when she and her husband Claude decided to move to Arizona. SCAS had grown tremendously, and had many public star parties, and the “Striking Sparks” program was just beginning. (SCAS built Dobsonians and gave them away to local school kids). Of course, in Tucson she was active with the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, and was one of the original movers and shakers of the club’s new remote dark site development. She was Treasurer and Member-at-Large, and very active with the public star party program. Upon moving to California in 2012, she helped revive the Big Bear Astronomical Society (BBVAS) into an active and vibrant club. The BBVAS partners with the USFS Discovery Center and Bear Valley Farms for monthly public events through the summer months. The club also sets up a monthly public moon party in the Village, and gives science scholarships to local high school students. She also volunteers with the RTMC Astronomy Expo Board of Directors, and is a docent for the Big Bear Solar Observatory. She has also given lectures for the clubs, public, SolarFest, and the RTMC Astronomy Expo.
Her interests also include Astronomical sketching (she sketched all the Messier objects for the AL award and is working on the Caldwells), travelling to solar eclipses, and restoring neglected telescopes so they can continue to be enjoyed by another generation!