DAS Activities

DAS Public Nights

Public Nights
Tuesday and Thursday at
DU's Historic Chamberlin Observatory
Current start time is 8:30 pm.

Costs to the public are:
$4.00 adults, $3.00 children

To book, please click:

Public Night Reservations



DAS Scholarships

Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship Program

The DAS Van Nattan Hansen Scholarship program provides support for worthy graduating high school students or undergraduate college students majoring in astronomy and the physical sciences. See: 2019 Awardees.

Applying for the Scholarship

Applicants will only be considered if their information is received no later than June 15th of each year. Awards will normally be made by August 1st.

IF YOUR APPLICATION HAS BEEN RETURNED TO YOU BY THE POST OFFICE PLEASE EMAIL vnh@denverastro.org for instructions on a new address.

Naomi Pequette, Chair Person
The Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship Committee
Denver Astronomical Society
PO Box 102738
Denver, CO  80250

NOTE: emailed applications will not be accepted.

Applicants shall demonstrate that they meet the following criteria:

  • Applicants must either be graduating high school seniors or undergraduate college students in good standing.
  • Enrollment equivalent to at least a half-time load for the academic term as defined by the institution.
  • Applicants will be considered no more than 5 times for a full-time student and 8 times for a half-time student.

All requests for consideration should be accompanied by the following information:

  • Official Transcripts showing a grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent) including the final transcript of the applicants last semester.
  • A dated and signed letter of intent demonstrating the applicant’s interest and the declared major
  • Letters of recommendation from at least 2 reputable sources

Information provided by all applicants becomes the property of the Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship Committee. Please send copies of required information as appropriate. Documents cannot be returned.

Awards and Judging

Scholarship awards shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, ethnic or national origin, religion, or disabilities. The decision of the Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship Committee shall be considered final. Preference is given to Astronomy majors.

The Van Nattan Scholarship Committee
Chair: Naomi Pequette  vnh@denverastro.org (please do not use to send applications)
John Anderson
Ivan Geisler
Jon Groubert
Dena McClung
Greg Wimpey
Brenda Wray


2019 Van Nattan- Hansen Scholarship Award
By Naomi Pequette

The Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship Committee are pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 VNH scholarship: Ryan Webster, Anna Maxey, and Daniel Percuoco-Poras.

This year’s pool of applicants was especially strong and the committee is excited to be able to support these students as they pursue their dreams and begin their astronomy careers.

Ryan Webster – 2019 Van-Nattan Hansen Scholarship Recipient

Ryan Webster

This is the second year that Ryan has received the VNH Scholarship. Ryan is entering his senior year at the University of Arizona, where he is majoring in astronomy with a minor in physics. In addition to his course work, Ryan has continued his work at the Steward Observatory as a Large Binocular Telescope Adaptive Optics Specialist. Dr. Steve Ertel, an Associate Researcher at the Steward Observatory, says Ryan’s work is “…critical to the operations of one of the most advanced adaptive optics systems in the world on the largest optical telescope in the world.” This summer, Ryan is pursing research at Texas A&M through a National Science Foundation funded Research Experience for Undergraduates internship. He is using astrometry data from the Gaia Space Observatory to determine the orbits of several dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way, which will help astronomers gain better insight to the distribution of dark matter around the Milky Way as well as how dwarf galaxies evolve over time. He will be presenting his findings at the 235th American Astronomical Society winter meeting.





Anna Maxey, 2019 Van Natten Hansen Scholarship Recipient

Anna Maxey

Anna has just started her journey to becoming an astronomer, but has had a life-long passion. Anna fell in love with astronomy looking up in wonder at the Milky Way under dark skies from her childhood home. She is currently a student at Red Rocks Community College, where is working toward an associate’s degree in science, with a physics designation. She then plans to transfer to the University of Colorado, where she will pursue a degree in astrophysics. Anna is also a Denver Astronomical Society member and is currently in training to become a telescope operator at Chamberlin Observatory. David Shouldice said she is one of the most enthusiastic and driven trainees he has had the pleasure to work with.






Daniel Percuoco-Poras, 2019 Van Nattan Hansen Scholarship Recipient

Daniel Percuoco-Poras

Daniel will be starting his freshman year at the University of Colorado Boulder this fall, where he will be majoring in Physics and Astrophysics. Daniel graduated Summa Cum Laude from Arvada West High School and has always focused on STEM coursework in order to get him closer to his dream of becoming an astrophysicist. One of his teachers, Christyn Keyler, says that “Daniel is one of the most resilient and multi-faceted students I have ever had in my career. His story of overcoming odds in his academic prowess is given meaning by his pure, humble, and honest character.”








Connor Bray

2018 VNH Scholarship Award

By Naomi Pequette

The Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship Committee are pleased to announce the two winners of the 2018 VNH $3000 scholarship as Ryan Webster and Connor Bray.

Connor graduated magna cum laude from the Colorado School of Mines in 2018 with a B.S. in Engineering Physics with a Computer Science minor and is already well established in the field of astronomy and engineering having completed two internships with NASA.  He is now pursuing his Master’s degree where he will be researching dark matter by searching for the sterile neutrino, a hypothetical particle that interacts with matter only via gravity.  Connor has been a member of the Denver Astronomical Society since 2013 and credits the DAS as one of his inspirations to pursue a career in astrophysics or aerospace engineering.

Ryan Webster

Ryan is currently a junior at the University of Arizona, where he is majoring in astronomy with a minor in physics. In addition to his course work, Ryan works at the Steward Observatory as a Large Binocular Telescope Adaptive Optics Specialist and as the Chief Telescope Operator of the Steward 21” Telescope. He is also working on research into white dwarf planetary systems using the Large Binocular Telescope. Ryan has been interested in astronomy since childhood, but says that working at S&S Optika was what really ignited his passion and set him on a path to becoming an astronomer.

We are proud to be able to award these scholarships to such extraordinary students and look forward to seeing their careers blossom!






Matilyn Bindl

2016 VNH Scholarship Award

The VNH scholarship will be $3000 in 2016, to Matilyn Bindl, a student from Belvidere, IL. During her sophomore year of high school, she was presented the opportunity to get both her high school diploma and her Associated Degree in Science at the end of her high school tenure. She’ll be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison to obtain her Doctorate in Astronomy or Astrophysics.



45 Years of Support to Physics and Astronomy Students:
The Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship

By Ron Pearson and Darrell Dodge

If you are a graduating high school senior or college undergraduate majoring or planning to major in Astronomy, the physical sciences or mathematics, you are invited to apply for the DAS Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship. A preference will be given to Astronomy majors. The scholarship fund was started many years ago by William Van Nattan’s family, and grew substantially with additional contribution from Charles Hansen’s family.

William R. Van Nattan (1921-1971) loved astronomy. His enthusiasm continues to enrich, enlighten, and capture the interest of others through his many and varied contributions to astronomy. He was a founding member of both the Denver Astronomical Society (DAS) and the National Amateur Astronomers (NAA). As chairman of the Denver Planetarium Committee in 1955, he was instrumental in providing a planetarium for the people of Denver at the Natural History Museum. For many years Van Nattan assisted in teaching astronomy at the University of Denver’s Chamberlin Observatory.

Charles Hansen was also an avid supporter of Denver astronomy. Upon his death he left a significant portion of his estate to the Denver Astronomical Society for use in supporting the Fund.

To honor their memories, this scholarship fund was established by the Denver Astronomical Society in 1973. In the 45 years since, the scholarship has assisted at least 27 students of astronomy and physical sciences or mathematics, providing over $28,000 in assistance for their education. Through the gifts and contributions of many friends of astronomy, the Fund continues to provide scholarships to high school and undergraduate students.

Each year approximately two $1000 scholarships may be awarded to students in good academic standing who have demonstrated intent and merit to pursue a career in the physical sciences or mathematics. Priority is given to students of astronomy, astrophysics and related fields.

Catching Up With Previous Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship Winners

A recent internet search of Scholarship winners from the 1970’s and 1980’s found at least five who have gone on to become professional astronomers or physicists who could be positively linked to the scholarship. One Van Nattan-Hansen graduate went on to a career in optics that wasn’t related to astronomy. Thumbnail sketches are provided below, together with the year(s) of their scholarships and the amounts (if known).

Dr. Mark Bottorff (1978, amount NA; 1979, $200.00; 1980, $250.00)
Dr. Bottorff was a DAS Associate member in the 1970’s, and is familiar to DAS members as a companion at local star parties and a frequent speaker at DAS general meetings. He is an Assistant Professor of Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas. Mark’s research over the years has focused on quasars, the super massive black holes that serve as the most powerful energy sources in the universe. He began studying quasars while earning his Ph.D. and working as a research assistant at the University of Kentucky. He stayed for three years as a post-doctoral researcher and wrote papers based on quasar information gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Brad Schaefer (prior to 1979; amounts NA)
Dr. Schaefer received his Ph.D in Astronomy and Astrophysics from MIT in 1983. He is now a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University. A prime interest of his research has been to use the photometry of exploding objects to get results of interest for cosmology. He has recently been involved in the exploration of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) as standard candles for use in cosmological investigations out to red shifts from ~0.2 to 20. This allows GRBs to be light sources for the detection of the Gunn-Peterson effect, the creation of a Hubble Diagram from 0.2<z<10, and measuring the star formation rate of the Universe out to z~20.

Dr. C. Nick Arge (1981, $500.00; 1983, $400.00)
Dr. Arge is a prize-winning researcher who does work in the areas of coronal and solar wind modeling for the purpose of forecasting the solar wind near Earth. Dr. Arge received his B.S. in Physics at the University of Arizona in 1985, with support from the Van Nattan-Hansen scholarship. He went on to receive an M.S. Degree in Physics at the University of Michigan in 1988, and a Ph.D. in Physics in 1997 at the University of Delaware. He worked for the University of Colorado and NOAA in Boulder, Colorado from 1996 to 2003. He has worked at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Vehicles Directorate, since 2003 and is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of New Mexico.

Joseph Pesce (1984, $300.00; 1986, $575.00; 1987, $500.00)
Dr. Pesce received his B.A. in Physics from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with the support of the Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship. He went on to obtain an M.Sc and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Cambridge University and the International School for Advanced Studies, Trieste, Italy. His topic of research is the large-scale environments of Active Galactic Nuclei, and the influence of the environment on the central, supermassive blackhole. He has held positions at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD and at the Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA. He is currently a Visiting Professor at CU, Boulder, and an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. He runs a company providing educational activities in problem solving and critical thinking.

Anthony Gojanovic (1982, $450.00; 1983, $400.00)
Mr. Gojanovic’s recent work included a simulation of the Survival Probabilities of a Lander Mission on Mars for the University of Colorado, Denver.

James Zavislan, Ph.D. (1980, $500.00; 1981, $350.00)
Dr. Zavislan chose not to enter the field of physics and astronomy, but used his B.S. Degree in Optics and his Ph.D. in Optics in 1988 (from the University of Rochester) to do research improving the performance of optical imaging systems for biomedical, material science, and remote sensing applications. He is an inventor or co-inventor on 42 issued U.S. patents, an author or co-author on 20 papers, and the co-editor of a book on optical systems. His current area of research is skin imaging. He holds two associate professorships at The Institute of Optics, University of Rochester, in New York.

Recent winners of the scholarship include Adrian Akerson; Debra Davis, who operates the Women in Astronomy Web site; and Stephanie Pahl.

Winners of the scholarship in 2007 included DAS Student Member and Littleton High School Graduate, Naomi Pequette, and Bear Creek High School senior Sara Simon. Naomi won the Astronomical League’s National Young Astronomer of the Year award and received her undergraduate and graduate degrees at DU. Sara Simon received her undergraduate degree in Astronomy at CU-Boulder. Each received a $1,000 scholarship award.