BRIEF HISTORY OF W7FTT
James Whitney Young was born in Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon on January 24,
1941 to Bernard Frederick YOUNG and Mary (Vreeland) YOUNG. Jim was raised, along
with his brother, Michael Frederick YOUNG at 423 NW Skyline Blvd from 1941 to 1954
before the family moved to Seattle, Washington.
Both Mike and Jim attended Sylvan School, and were both active in the boys' choir of
Portland's Trinity Episcopal Church.
In the winter of 1950, their father returned from a business trip to California and
introduced both boys to astronomy with an issue of the "Griffith Observer", s small
pamphlet from the Griffith Observatory that had a map of the constellations on the
back. Both Mike and Jim fell in love with what would become an active life-long
hobby for both, and professionally for Jim. They both studied astronomy, reading
countless numbers of astronomy books acquired at the Portland Library. Their father
gave them a small telescope and Mike built an equatorial mount and tripod to support
the telescope. During the summer months, the two would actively observe night after
night in the dark skies west of Portland.
In August 1951, the family took a trip to California, expressly to visit several of
the world's leading observatories (at that time). Lick Observatory near Jan Jose,
Griffith Observatory of Los Angeles, Mt. Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mts.
and Mount Palomar were all visited.
This set the tone for Jim's intense interest in pursuing astronomy as a career. The
family moved to Seattle and both boys joined the Seattle Astronomical Society. Jim
became the 'junior' president of the Society, and later became the President. Jim
also later became the junior representative for the Northwest Regional League of the
Astronomical League (National). He was later appointed Vice-Chairman of this same
Northwest League. He gave many lectures at various astronomical societies, as well
as many civic and church organizations before his 18th birthday. He activated many
junior astronomers by organizing a trip to the Dominion Astronomical Observatory in
In 1956, Jim's father introduced to the family, Neal Frost, W7ACU, who in turn
interested Jim in amateur radio. With the help of Sid Lough, W7VL (now a silent key),
Jim became first a novice, WN7FTT, and soon had passed his technician exam: W7FTT.
Jim's interest, still focused on astronomy, took an added emphasis when the Soviet
Union launched 'Sputnik' in October, 1957. The day after sputnik was put in orbit,
his school allowed him to go home and monitor the radio signals on his new radio,
a Hammarlund HQ-100 his father had bought him when he got his 'ham' ticket.
In 1959, upon graduating from Seattle's Roosevelt High School, Jim joined the United
States Army Reserve. While waiting to attend 'boot' camp, he continued his pursuit
of astronomy by attending the University of Portland (Portland, Oregon). Jim then
went to Fort Ord, California to 'boot' camp, then on to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where
he attained MOS 051, High Speed Radio Operator.
After returning from his active duty training, Jim tried his first real job at the
Bank of California (branch in Seattle), first as a messenger, then as a clerk in the
Trust Department in early 1962. But in April, a long time friend of the family
encourage Jim to apply for a position at the Seattle World's Fair. Jim applied. He
was hired as a technical guide for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) exhibit. He was trained by a NASA official, along with the 32 additional
young people to talk to people about NASA and the space program. Because Jim had an
extensive background in astronomy already established, NASA had Jim teach a short
basic astronomy course to the other guides. Jim became the Lead Technical Guide for
the NASA exhibit in August, and soon had great chance meetings with VIP's that came
to the NASA exhibit; Russian cosmonauts, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Vice President
Lyndon Johnson, Prince Phillip, and yes, even Elvis Presley!
Just before the doors were to close at the Seattle World's Fair, a NASA official of
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) suggested to Jim to apply for a position, since
JPL was building its own observatory at Table Mountain, some 50 miles from the Los
Angeles area. He applied, and three days after the 'Fair' closed, Jim was flown to
JPL for an on-site interview at the observatory. Ironically, there was a JPL Open
House for families to visit the new 16-inch telescope at the Table Mountain complex.
Jim really never got much of an interview, because the drive mechanism for the 16-
inch telescope broke in the middle of the Open House. Jim's mechanical prowess,
taught him by his father, soon had the telescope running smoothly once again. Oh,
and yes, he got the job. In July, 2009, after celebrating 47 years of service
at the Table Mountain Observatory, Jim retired!!
In 1970 and 1971, Jim was hired to teach an astronomy course for the University of
California Extention Services, the first non-degreed person to do so in the history
of the University. He was appointed the Remote Planets Recorder for the Association
of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO) from 1969 to 1977.
Over his 47 year career at the observatory, Jim worked with several telescopes,
and managed the 24-inch Cassegrain/Coude instrument built in 1965. He became the
site's resident astronomer in 1971, and had the full responsibility for telescope
optical alignment and mirror coating tasks for all telescopes at the Table Mountain
facility. In 1968, Jim was the first person to optically aim a laser beam to the
Surveyor VII spacecraft on the surface of the moon. Further laser aiming tests
for optical communication experiments as recent as 1995, made Jim the only person
to have successfully aimed laser beams to the moon, near earth satellites, as well
as the deep space probe Galileo.
In 1968, while attending an astronomical convention in Las Cruces, New Mexico, he
was instrumental in the confirmation of a comet discovery. In Jim's presence, two
convention participants discovered a comet-like object. Jim called the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory and asked permission to make the confirmation sighting
the next evening, usually afforded to a second party. The next evening, with rain
in Las Cruces, Jim drove the discovery team north to Truth or Consequences, NM, and
made the confirmation for Smithsonian, and drove back to the convention. The comet
confirmation announcement was made during the banquet featured speaker presentation,
entitled, "How to Discover a Comet"!!!!!
Jim's greatest interest has been with comets, meteors and asteroids. From the late
1960's to the early 1980's, Jim worked extensively on gathering photometric data for
determining asteroid rotational rates. In fact, by the mid 1980's, Jim had gathered
over 1/3 of all asteroid rotational rate measurments for the world's astronomical
community. In 1985, Jim was honored by his peers, with the naming of asteroid 2874
as 'Jim Young'. Jim continued to work in the asteroid field, working with the JPL
Navigation Team on high precision positional measurments of asteroids, using a large
CCD camera and the observatory's 24-inch telescope.
Jim authored and co-authored over 50 astronomical papers during his 47 years at
Table Mountain. Since 1956, he also gave over 210 presentations, lectures and
public star parties to school, church and civic organizations in 8 states. He was a
charter member and former president of the High Desert Astronomical Society. Many
of Jim's photographs and drawings have appeared in magazines, calendars, and several
newspapers all around the country, as well as several foreign countries. Many of
his meteor photographs have appeared in astronomical books in the last 20 years. A
picture of Comet Hale-Bopp has appeared on the Internet since March, 1997. In very
recent years, Jim become very involved with Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), most of
which become Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs), and comet recovery for the Minor Planet
Center (MPC), part of Commission 20 of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Jim obtained extensive 'astrometric' (accurate positional measurements) of newly
discovered NEOs and comets. Since August, 2002, Jim made over 16000 astrometric
measurements, involving over 300 NEAs, 70 comets (and over 400 main belt asteroids he
personally discovered). To make those required accurate measurements, Jim used software
developed by Herbert Raab in Austria, called ASTROMETRICA. A large number of professional
and amateur astronomers worldwide use this superior 'measuring' software daily, to provide
the MPC with the required 'astrometric' data to keep track of all the NEOs and comets
in our solar system, as well as other astronomical phenomena. Jim also discovered
2 NEAs; 2003 BV35 and 2003 RW11. He was directly involved with the confirmation
recovery of the long lost asteroid, 1937 UB - Hermes, not seen since 1937! Jim was
finally promoted to a member of the senior technical staff of The Earth and Space
Sciences Division of JPL in 2005. He was the chief resident astronomer at Table Mountain,
and the Astronomy Team Leader at the observatory up until he retired earlier in 2009.
Outside of his astronomy interests, Jim is a Life member of the ARRL, QCWA, and the
Heard Island DX Association (HIDXA). He was the director of the Southern California
Area DXers (SCADS), an SWL group, from 1979 to 1981. He is an Official Observer(OO)
for the ARRL and a Volunteer Examiner (VE) for the Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio
Group. Jim has been a continuous volunteer Wireless Operator for W6RO since 1986
aboard the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. Coincidentally, Jim's tour of
duty, the fourth Friday of each month, on the Queen Mary had him pulling 'shift' with
W7JL, James L. Young (SK) and WB6NFI (Jim's old callsign was WB6FNI!), Robert Center.
Jim has been a Boy Scout astronomy merit badge councilor, a citizen volunteer for a
San Bernardino County Radio Amateur Corps of Emergency Services (RACES) and the at
present, is the Net Administrator/Secretary/Awards Manager for the Triple H Net. Jim
and his wife Karen have been active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
Day Saints (LDS) for nearly 35 years, both being converts to the Church. Karen is the
Relief Society President, and Jim is the Ward membership clerk and HP Group teacher.
With the recent construction of a new LDS Temple in Redlands, CA, Jim was honored by
being one of the 'Temple Construction Photographers'.
Starting in 1974, Jim was appointed an official station monitor for the Israel State
Broadcasting Authority for 10 years. He is an honorary life member of Radio HCJB in
Quito, Ecuador, Radio Budapest in Hungary and Radio RSA in South Africa.
Jim and his family have climbed Mt. Whitney 6 times training and taking 12 different
people to the summit. With the use of their ham radios taken to the summit in 1991
(and on every climb), Jim and wife Karen, N6PJL, were instrumental in saving a man's
life, after the man fell and seriously injured himself. A helicopter was brought to
the summit to evacuate the man, by getting 'search and rescue' on a ham radio link.
The man was in the emergency room in 10 minutes from the summit; he had four broken
ribs. A climb down the 11 mile trail could have resulted in a punctured lung, and
possibly bleeding to death was the prognosis by emergency room doctors.
Jim has four children: Jeffrey, age 43; Jennifer, age 42; Bryan, age 33; and Eileen,
age 31. Jeffrey and Jennifer are from his first marriage with Frances Jean FISHER.
Bryan and Eileen are from his second marriage with Karen Ann (HALBERG).
Jeffrey is married to Stephanie (Ewell), and reside in Highland, California, with
their four children: Whitney (KI6ABM), age 19; Heather, age 18, Scott, age 13 and
Michael, age 10. Jeff is an accountant with the county of San Bernardino, and also
licensed as N6WQK.
Jennifer resides in Renton, Washington, and is a professional hair dresser. She
has two children: Brandon, age 17; and Brittany, age 15.
Bryan is currently working in Colorado, and residing in the Steamboat Springs area.
He has one child, a daughter, Katelyn, age 10.
Eileen is currently living in Port Clinton, Ohio with her son, Levi, age 10, and has
another child from a previous marriage; Ashley Philpott, age 11, who lives in southern
Jim is now pursuing his life-long interest in professional photography, after recently
purchasing a Canon 1Ds Mark III, and numerous Canon lenses. A new site soon to hit the
internet, will be 'YoungsPhotoGallery.com'.
Last Updated: December 16, 2009 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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