Meet the CCO Staff


Ronald F. Dantowitz
Director, Clay Center Observatory

Dantowitz has been fascinated with the stars since childhood. Getting a telescope at age 13 began his obsession to see and record the sharpest lunar and planetary features possible. His quest for sharp images continues to this day, 25 years after having taken his first astrophoto.

He designed the Clay Center Observatory, which was completed in 2002. The observatory’s research-grade, 0.64-m telescope is the largest-aperture publicly accessible astronomical instrument in the Boston area. His primary interests are astronomy education and developing techniques for ultra-high-resolution telescopic imaging. For example, Dantowitz led the team that provided the high-resolution video seen worldwide in 2004 by more than 1 billion people when Space Ship One made its historic flights into space to claim the X Prize.

In 1988, after receiving a  degree in aeronautical engineering degree and completing a year of work at NASA, Dantowitz took a position at the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science. It was at the Museum’s Gilliland Observatory where Dantowitz began developing techniques for high resolution astronomical imaging using video. The techniques he uses and the images he has achieved have been published in scientific journals, magazines, astronomy textbooks, encyclopedias, newspapers, and television programs. His special interest is in imaging orbiting satellites at high resolution through the telescope, although the video techniques he uses also work well on “conventional” solar system targets. Ron’s efforts have produced some of the sharpest ground-based optical images of the moon and planets to date, with resolutions approaching 0.1 arcsecond.

Dantowitz’s goal is to encourage both amateurs and professionals to use video as a serious imaging tool. To this end, he has tested video cameras on telescopes ranging from 10 cm to 2.5 m in aperture. In the May 2000 Astronomical Journal, Dantowitz published a peer-reviewed paper with the world’s first high-resolution images of Mercury, showing impacts and maria on the planet’s “unseen” hemisphere recorded with an inexpensive off-the-shelf video camera.

Marek Kozubal
Research Astronomer

On the schools’ staff since 1999, Kozubal combines a knowledge of astronomy, physics, computer science, programming, IT, and electrical engineering to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. His current activities include satellite and aircraft tracking; high-resolution astronomical imaging, photometry, and spectroscopy; and maintaining the Clay Center Observatory’s IT infrastructure (including running Mac OS X servers, file and network management).

Within the past few years Kozubal has participated in several technically challenging projects. These include creating a lab for processing digital video recordings, the design, development, and system integration of a mobile observatory and trailer system, and collaborations with MIT Lincoln Laboratory for monitoring atmospheric “seeing” and optimizing imaging techniques.

In October 2009 he presented CCO observations of the small asteroid 2008 TC3 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences. The light curve that he and Ron Dantowitz obtained, acquired just hours before the asteroid exploded in Earth’s atmosphere over Sudan, are unique data demonstrating that the irregularly-shaped object was both rotating and tumbling.

J. Kelly Beatty
Faculty Astronomer

In 2004 Beatty joined the faculty at Dexter Southfield, where he teaches high-school courses in astronomy and helps develop astronomy-enriched science curricula for the schools’ lower grade levels.

He holds a Bachelors degree in geology from the California Institute of Technology and a Master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University. He joined the editorial staff of Sky & Telescope in 1974 and now serves as the magazine’s Senior Contributing Editor. Specializing in planetary science and space exploration, Beatty also conceived and edited The New Solar System, considered a standard reference among planetary scientists. He served as the editor of Night Sky, a magazine for beginning stargazers, in 2004-07.

During the 1980s Beatty was among the first Western journalists to gain firsthand access to Soviet space centers. In 1986 he was one of 100 semifinalists for NASA’s Journalist in Space program. Beatty has been honored with the Harold Masursky Award for meritorious service by the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (2005), the Astronomical League Award for his contributions to the science of astronomy (2006), and the DPS’s inaugural Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award (2009).

Norman Wittels
Science & Engineering Faculty

After earning a series of degrees at MIT, Dr. Wittels began a four-decade-long career as an instructor at the high-school, undergraduate, and graduate levels. He was a member of the engineering faculty at Worcester Polytechnic Institute for 15 years, and afterward he taught physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science at several high schools before joining the faculty here in 2010.

Dr. Wittels spearheaded the introduction of engineering classes at Dexter Southfield, and he works with teachers at all grade levels to incorporate technology into student projects. Fascinated with all things astronomical from a young age, he now assists with many of the astronomy-related outreach activities hosted by the Clay Center.

© 2014 Clay Center Observatory at Dexter Southfield