Last Updated: 01/15/2016
Welcome to my Web site:
My interest in Astronomy goes back to my childhood when my father and I looked up into the sky one night from our backyard and saw the first manmade object ever put into orbit blinking across the sky.
The year was 1957. The object was Sputnik. I think just about everyone was outside that night looking for a blinking star that was traveling across the expanse of the sky. I was 10 years old and I was hooked!
At some point shortly thereafter, I bought my first telescope. I think it was offered on the back cover of a comic book although I'm not sure. What I do remember is how excited I was to receive it in the mail. It had a pressed cardboard Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) and an eyepiece that allowed for varying magnifications by inserting different combinations of glass lenses into the eyepiece and closing it up. It really wasn't of much use except for viewing the moon but the fascination was still there. That fascination continued until the day I left the scope out in the rain (or was it snow?) and the whole thing turned to cardboard mush. All of my saved up allowance down the drain in one bad judgment.
Fast forward to 2001. I'm in a Sam's Club and they have a couple of Meade telescopes on display. One was an ETX90-RA. A 90mm (approx. 3.5" diameter) Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope with a 1250mm focal length, this is a small scope with nice magnification and clarity. An excellent beginner telescope. Not too cheaply priced, and not too expensive, I initially hesitated. What if I got bored with it after a few months? Fortunately I had a bonus coming from work so I bought it. It came with 2 eyepieces but over time I added more and a few accessories that probably exceeded the cost of the telescope. This isn't a cheap hobby.
Fast forward again to 2005. I now know that this hobby is only getting stronger and for the past year and a half I've been eyeing an 8" Meade LX90 (Schmidt-Cassegrain 2000mm focal length) and to make matters worse Meade is now coming out with a newer model with additional features. If I thought the ETX90 was expensive, the LX90-LNT is 5 times as expensive - especially since I want the UHTC (Ultra High Transmission Coating) on the mirror which improves viewing. It seemed like every time I had the money saved up, a home project depleted my funds. Again enter the old company bonus and I'm now a proud owner.
And now to mid-2006. I've had my LX90-LNT for about 15 months now. The photo above is a picture of me with it at our Astronomy club dark sky site. I've added a few accessories to it including an electric focuser which really helps with Astro-photography along with an improved finder scope and diagonal. Other items such as eyepieces, folding tables, laptop, power supplies, etc. etc. and it's a wonder I haven't gone broke. While I love general observing, I think I like Astro-photography better. I am using a couple of different planetary CCD imagers and am now considering the purchase of a deep sky imager. Once I get that, I hope to be adding some new pictures. It's been a long journey from that cardboard telescope of my youth. Now where's that damned wallet.....
Another year - 2007. I am now the proud owner of a Meade DSI Pro II imager . As is typically the case when receiving a new piece of equipment, the weather here in the Dallas area has been a combination of clouds, rain, or ice much of the month of January. I've managed one training session with the imager over at a club members house and that was it. In the meantime, I'm spending my downtime reading up on how to image and post-process with the DSI. Hopefully I will be posting new deep-sky images on this site soon.
Mid-2007 and this has been the wettest spring I can ever remember in the Dallas area. Obviously the weather has restricted viewing and imaging. I have managed a few imaging sessions with the DSI and I recently purchased a focal reducer. It's a Meade f/3.3 focal reducer which reduces CCD exposure times by up to 80 percent and allows me to capture more of the object in my field of view (see 'My Equipment' link). This purchase has been a big help and I hope to improve on the quality of my images. I now have a Deep Space Images link. Some of the images are pretty good, and others need more work. All have been taken from my light-polluted backyard but I hope to get to our Astronomy Club's dark sky property soon and see what kind of improvement that will make with my imaging.
Mid-2008 June 1 to be exact and what was one of the wetter springs in 2007 is now shaping up to be one of the hotter summers if May is any indicator. Already a number of mid-90's temperatures and we are now just getting into June. Over the past year I have improved my astro-imaging with the DSI II. I purchased a f/6.3 focal reducer to go along with the f/3.3 so I now have a number of focal length options available to me. While I have had moderate success imaging from my light polluted backyard, it's our astronomy club dark site in Oklahoma that provides the best quality images. It's a 130 mile trip to get there, and with gas prices so high it's getting costly, but the imaging results pretty much make up for it. I really envy anyone who lives in a dark sky environment. I probably need to put up some comparison images between home and the dark site just to show the difference in quality but for now take a look at my Deep Space Images. Images (such as M1, M42, M83, and M101 among others) captured at the dark site are noted as such. I have also partnered with another club member to lease a large 20' x 20' pad at the site. It needs some electrical work but has a below ground pier. We are hoping to be able to pier mount our scopes in the future. For now however, it provides plenty of room to set up equipment. More later.
Good Riddance to year 2008. I'm sure I speak for others in stating that 2008 was a miserable one for those with investments that lost a sizeable percentage of their worth, or jobs lost to the failing economy. I fall into both of those categories. My 401k is now a 201k and in November my job of 22 years was eliminated. Actually the entire department was outsourced. Sound familiar? On the positive side, I continue to enjoy all aspects of my hobby and with the time off I'm able to get out and image more. While any future equipment purchases have been put on hold, I try to get out and see what objects I can find whenever the conditions allow. I have also started to do Robotic imaging, using telescopes located in places like Australia and the Canary Islands. Click on the 'Robotic Images' button to see what I have been able to capture.
Mid-2009 and I'm back among the gainfully employed. Started my new job back in March which I guess wasn't too much time off considering the state of the economy. The 3 day a week work schedule fits me just fine and allows ample time for my observing and imaging. That said, it's been a hotter than average Summer here in Dallas so I've taken a break during the heat to spend more time on my post-processing technique. I've actually been able to bring out more detail on a number of previous images and hopefully this will help me with future endeavors. My goal for this Fall is to finally master the operation of my Equatorial Wedge so I can take longer exposures. If that works out then perhaps a better imager may be in the works?
Happy New Year (?) 2011 Or at least I hope it's a happy one. I'm still working and still looking forward to any opportunities to get out under the stars. I bought an addition to my rig last year. It's an Orion EON 80mm refractor that I intend to piggyback on to my LX90. It came with a set of mounting rings and I had an extra mounting rail but it proved to be too flimsy and besides, the rings weren't quite large enough for scope adjustment. I have since purchased a set of 125mm Losmandy rings and have just purchased a Losmandy dovetail mounting rail. Once it arrives I hope to be able to do a bit of wide field imaging. Not as wide obviously as a DSLR setup but the 80mm should allow me to get more of a larger object into my field of view. I'm still using the Meade DSI Pro II and it has served me well - especially in a dark sky environment. That said, I'm starting to look at the next level up from the DSI. Orion Telescope has some nice CCD cameras and the older SBIG's are becoming affordable, especially when purchased used. Perhaps a good deal will come along.
Late Summer 2011 Not sure how all of you other observers are doing but down here in Dallas we just broke the all time record for 100+ degree days. Needless to say I haven't been doing a lot of imaging even though rain/clouds have been scarce. Just too damned hot!! What little time I have for imaging has been on those rare nights when the temperature gets down near 80 which is rare. Most nights it's in the 90's until the early morning hours. Looking forward to Fall, whenever that comes around. Could be December.
Mid Summer 2012 I guess I should have entered something around the end of 2011 but just never got around to it. I did manage to get up to our dark site in S. OK a number of times through the Fall/Winter months which was very mild after the hot Summer we had. No snow/ice to speak of in the DFW area and no hard freezes so the bug population has really taken off. The dark site is no exception and we have been fighting a Brown Recluse spider infestation on the property as well as Black Widows and the occasional Scorpion. When I am there I pretty much stick to the concrete pad after dark. Since I work weekends my dark site opportunities are during a week day when it's iffy whether or not I will have company from other members. Last time up I was with only one other person and he left early so I was by myself the last 2 hours. Peaceful but not want I prefer. At my age I'd like someone else to be there just in case I fell ill or something. I have been having good success with my piggy-backed 80mm refractor. For about the past year I have been imaging with it in order to get a wider field of view. I need to plan which objects I an going after so I can keep from swapping the camera between the 80mm and the 8" LX90. I'm very pleased with the Orion 80mm and look forward to more wide shots this fall as larger nebulas appear in the sky.
This site was last updated 01/15/16
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