“No two days are the same: I get to train part-time staff how to teach programs, and teach in the planetarium,” Dundee said. “I get to teach staff how to run the 20-inch telescope out in our observatory. I get the pleasure of teaching students and public all about astronomy. I get to help create new exhibits, help write grants, talk to the press about astronomical events.
“I get to work on very cool events like Heavy Metal in Motion (bringing big machines to the museum), Night at the Museum (dressing up as Galileo), looking for new programming and bringing it to our planetarium. [I am] always on the lookout for different programs, ideas and exhibits to bring to Tellus.”
Encompassing 120,000 square feet at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville, Tellus is comprised of four main galleries — The Weinman Mineral Gallery, The Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard — a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory. A Smithsonian affiliate, Tellus has attracted more than 700,000 visitors since opening in January 2009.
Name: David Dundee
Occupation: Astronomy program manager at Tellus Science Museum
City of residence: Cartersville
Family: Wife, Betty, married four years. Son, Owen, age 25, works in Orlando; daughter, Sara, lives in Atlanta, in her first year of law school at Georgia State; and our beagle named Buster.
Education: I got my bachelor’s degree in astronomy from the University of Arizona and my master’s in astronomy from Columbia University in New York City.
How long have you been working at the Tellus Science Museum and what led you to join this organization?
A. I have worked at Tellus since May of 2008. I was at the end of my 30th year as an astronomer for Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta, and a wonderful opportunity came along to create a whole new astronomy program at a brand new museum.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
A. I enjoy being creative, talking to people about astronomy and I am very blessed to work with the nicest bunch folks you can find anywhere (That’s the reason Tellus is so much fun for visitors, we are having fun too!).
What is your favorite celestial body that you have viewed through Tellus’ 20-inch telescope?
A. I love looking at Planetary Nebula, they look like faint fuzzy donuts. They are the result of small explosions by red giant stars. Some of these objects can be very pretty with vivid colors of blue and green that you can see with our telescope. Of these my favorite is the “Snow Ball Nebula,” a lovely blue snowball in the constellation of Andromeda.
Why did you enter this career field? Were you always interested in astronomy?
A. My interest in astronomy came from a physics class I took in high school. One chapter was on astronomy. After that, I was hooked. Before that my interest was in ancient Egypt.
What is your favorite constellation and the story behind it?
A. I like them all. Orion is one of my favorites, a brilliant winter constellation. In the Aztec culture, Orion was a man standing in the sky. From the southern hemisphere point of view, he would be upside down to us. The two knees of Orion would represent two shoulders to the Aztecs, and the two shoulders of Orion would represent the knees in the southern hemisphere. Well, according to the Aztecs, this man got into an argument with his wife, who at the time had an ax in her hand. She became angry and chopped off the leg of her unfortunate husband. The bright orange star Betelgeuse represents the bloody stump of the chopped off leg. Moral of the story: never get into an argument with your significant other if he or she is holding an ax.
What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?
A. I suppose professionally the award of “Museum Professional of the Year” awarded to me by the State Museum Association, which I won twice in 1995 and again in 2010. For personal achievement, accepting Jesus as my savior. I came to God later in life and it has changed everything for me.
If you were not in this line of work, what would you like to do?
A. Probably archeology, off digging in the sand somewhere. Or perhaps in the theater, I love live theater.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
A. Happy, outgoing, fun.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A. I am fascinated by World War II history, especially the period in Europe between 19201938.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A. At home with my sweet wife, Betty.