A Tribute to John Mosley
by Rich Csenge, President, Stellar Vista Observatory
Weekly Sky Reports authored by John Mosley and distributed by Kanab’s Stellar Vista Observatory (SVO) for better than three years have provided a fascinating look forward for sky watchers throughout southern Utah as well as northern and central Arizona.
Through his affiliation with SVO and beginning in April, 2020, authoritative weekly descriptions of the most interesting celestial phenomena for the week ahead were outlined and explained in a casual colloquial style by the distinguished former Program Director for the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Mosley’s accounts of the continually changing positions of the planets, his descriptions of how the motion and position of celestial objects we see in the night sky are related to each other, to Earth, and the awe inspiring cosmic forces that drive them, regularly informed, inspired and entertained readers of six regional newspapers and at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ , as well as several online venues.
A valued member of Stellar Vista Observatory’s Advisory Committee, John has always stood ready to provide substantive guidance to the nonprofit organization as it works toward its goal to build and operate an educational astronomical observatory for public enjoyment in Kanab, Utah.
But alas, declining health has unfortunately forced John, reluctantly, to discontinue educating readers through his series of sky reports, a selfless service he truly loved. Here’s a look at John’s fascinating and distinguished biography.
John Mosley has been interpreting the sky to family, friends, and the public since he got his first telescope in 1956. He says of himself, “I was a passionate amateur astronomer beginning in the first grade.”
While enjoying the night sky in his backyard observatory in suburban Detroit, John earned a degree in astronomy from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1970. Upon graduation he turned from research to public astronomy and, during his 35-year professional career he worked in two public planetariums: the historic Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City and the world-famous Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Mosley was in charge of Griffith’s educational activities, and he wrote and produced over 50 planetarium shows (and presented them live), developed museum exhibits, was responsible for the operation of the telescopes, and provided astronomy information to the public and the news media.
He has been interviewed over 100 times on local and national television and appeared in more than a dozen documentaries. John became an authority on the Star of Bethlehem (his first book is The Christmas Star, published in 1987).
In the 1990s Mosley wrote four additional books on the sky: The Ultimate Guide to the Sky for children in 1997, Stargazing for Beginners also in 1997, Stargazing with Binoculars and Telescopes in 1998, and Starry Night Companion in 2000. This last book has been included with every copy of Starry Night software sold since 2000. His two stargazing books are available through Amazon.com.
During his career at the Griffith, John Mosley became a familiar face to Los Angeles residents and to people around the country with his frequent media appearances. John was called on regularly to explain eclipses, discoveries in astronomy, and to be an authority in documentaries, and he has appeared on CNN Headline News, Tom Snyder Show, Good Morning America, AM Los Angeles, Dan Rather Evening News, Today Show, Jim Lehrer News Hour, as well as the local evening news countless times.
He has also lead expeditions to South America and the Caribbean to watch eclipses and to see Halley’s Comet, taught astronomy at the college level and to teachers, and conducted weekend astronomy workshops for families on Palomar Mountain and elsewhere. He edited magazines and a professional journal, wrote a bi-weekly column on the sky that appeared in the Los Angeles Times for six years, and recorded a weekly Sky Report that was very popular for 26 years. He coordinated public star parties sponsored by Hansen Planetarium and Griffith Observatory for 35 years.
As a lifetime member of Dark Sky International, John continues to remain active in promoting the preservation of the visibility of the night sky through the wise use of nighttime lighting.
Stellar Vista Observatory is immensely grateful to John Mosley for having composed and freely shared an uninterrupted series of 183 consecutive weekly sky reports from April ,2020, through October, 2023. Each sky report is archived and available to the public on the SVO website by clicking here.
SVO is on the lookout for an active or retired professional astronomy interpreter who might like to take up the challenge to produce a regular series of sky reports. Very big footsteps to fill, indeed! If interested, please contact us on our website.