Biography

Don Machholz [ maˈcoles ] aka The Comet Hunter is born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1952. Machholz established an interest in astronomy at the early age of 8 and by thirteen had his first telescope, a 2-inch refractor. It wasn’t much later that he located all the Messier Objects utilizing a 6-inch Criterion Dynascope given to him by his parents.

Don entered the United States Army in 1971, working as a meteorological observer during the day and continued viewing astronomical objects by night. In the early 70’s astrophotography was popular and while stationed in Yuma, Arizona he photographed some of his first objects that were subsequently published in astronomy magazines.

By the mid 70’s he developed a mapping system that assisted him with comet hunting and after 1700 hours of searching, he visually discovered his first comet on September 12, 1978.

Machholz is considered to be one of the inventors of the Messier marathon, which is a race to observe all the Messier objects in a single night and has completed 45 marathons in the past 35 years.

An author of several publications, “A Decade of Comets,” (1985) a study of the visual comet discoveries between 1975 and 1984, “An Observer’s Guide to Comet Hale-Bopp,” (1996),  “The Observing Guide to the Messier Marathon,” (2002) Cambridge University Press, a list of 110 galaxies, star clusters and nebulae, and includes many of the brightest and best-known objects in the sky. From 1978 until 2000 Machholz authored a monthly column titled, “Comet Comments,” and on behalf of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers he was the Comets Recorder for 22 years.

Machholz is the most successful living visual comet discoverer; credited with the discovery of 12 comets, including the periodic comets 96P/Machholz, 141P/Machholz, the non-periodic C/2004 Q2 (Machholz) that was easily visible in binoculars in the northern sky in 2004 and 2005, C/2010 F4 (Machholz), and recently C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto).

Machholz remains active in the astronomical community, observes nearly 120 nights per year, is a survivor of Stage 3 Prostate Cancer and lives with his wife, Michele, in the Aquarius Mountains of Northern Arizona.

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