Today I learned of the passing of Steven Coe, an amateur observer well known and admired in the Arizona community and elsewhere. He had been having health issues on and off for the past few years, but would usually bounce right back and you could again find him out in the dark with a telescope somewhere.
I spent many nights observing with Steve and the rest of the usual gang at star parties in Southern Arizona. Nights at Sentinel or Farnsworth Ranch, he was nearly always there, one of the most dedicated visual observers in the community.
Go to the new moon events in southern AZ, wherever they were that month, and you would find Steve, AJ Crayon, Tom Polakis, and the rest. If everyone was there, it was going to be a good night. They were very memorable nights indeed.
If you saw Steve setting up at a star party you always wanted to setup nearby, you would learn so much just listening through the night. You were always welcome at his eyepiece, and what I saw there was so often something I had never seen before. A distant quasar, or some obscure gem of a nebula not found in the usual guides. Steve knew so much about the sky, and would cheerfully share that knowledge.
Some of that knowledge will live on, from his many contributions to the excellent Night Sky Guide volumes, to many magazine articles, and his frequent reports on the AZ-Observing mailing list.
Steve authored several of his own books that share his love of the night sky. My favorite is Deep-Sky Observing: The Astronomical Tourist or the second edition Deep Sky Observing: An Astronomical Tour. I have a signed copy of his first edition.
After learning of his death I will have to pickup a copy of his Touching the Universe: My Favorite Twenty Nights Viewing the Sky. The book is largely autobiographical and chronicles his twenty favorite observing sessions out of the thousands of nights he spent with a telescope. I note with pleasure that I shared one of those twenty dark nights, the 2002 All Arizona Messier Marathon.
Along with knowledge he passed along a love of the night sky and all of the wonders of the universe accessible to a small telescope. I count myself lucky to be among those who can pass that love along to others.
Farewell Steve! May you have nothing but dark nights and clear skies!