Astronomy and me
My interest in astronomy started as a child. I was active in the Dundee Astronomy Society between about 1982 and 1990, holding several committee posts including Director of Observations for 2 years.
We were lucky enough to have access to the Mills Observatory and its instruments, including the suberb Cooke 10″ refractor (pictured left).
This venerable instrument is now over 136 years old, and still sees use on clear winter nights for the benefit of the public.
Some of my fondest memories were in the winter of 1986/87 helping the (two!) observatory staff cope with the flood of visitors keen to catch a glimpse of Halley’s Comet.
Going through University and being forced to work for a living, time and other distractions made me lose touch with the hobby. I’m now (nearly) 40 and living in London; I’ve got a place with a small back garden, and I’ve found the time and excuse to explore the skies once again.
My main instrument is a Skywatcher EvoStar ED Pro 100mm apochromatic refractor; with a HEQ5 heavy equatorial mount to allow better tracking for photographic work. I also use 20 x 80 Celestron Skymaster binoculars.
For imaging I use a Canon 350D for widefield work; it’s also used at prime focus for relatively low magnification shots. Higher magnification is obtained with the ASTSC15C camera from Astronomiser. It’s basically a modified Phillips ToUcam with long-exposure and amp-off mods, housed in an aluminium shell cooled by forced-air.
Light Pollution: living in London means that you never see a completely dark sky. Light pollution (LP) isn’t too much of a problem for lunar or planetary work, or for looking at stars. However, for deep sky objects like nebulae and galaxies, it’s severely limiting. One of my interests is in seeing how much can be done to work around this problem in software. There is a huge range of excellent software available for amateur astronomers, much of it free – there’s a list on the software page.