My name is Steve King. I was married for 50 wonderful years to my wife Kathleen until she passed away in January of 2019. The pictures below show two of my favorite memories of her:
Our Wedding Day 1968 I Love You Kath !
I'm a father (2 boys and a girl), a grandfather (several times over), and a great grandfather. I live in Santa Cruz, CA about a mile from the ocean and about half a mile from the local shopping mall (with all it's parking lot lights) and about half a mile from the main street of the nearby town with all it's street lights. Needless to say, light pollution is a problem from this location.
When I was a young boy my father started making a 6" mirror for a Newtonian telescope. He got the pyrex mirror blank shaped, but, the blank never got aluminized, so, the telescope never was finished. However, the efforts he put into the mirror and the testing he did on it ignited an interested in telescopes that has never faded. While raising our children I did manage to purchase a few inexpensive "kids telescopes" and the children (and I) enjoyed them. However, it wasn't until I retired that I was able to really start to look into this hobby.
I started in astrophotography in earnest when I was in my early 70s (a few years after retiring). Sixinias (in the Astrophotogtraphy forum) provided invaluable guidance and encouragement on how to get started in this hobby, and, for this I will always be indebted. With a Canon T3 camera, an Orion ST-80 achromat telescope and a Nexstar Alt/Az mount (no guiding and only 30 sec exposures) I began. I also purchased BYEOS to control the camera. Processing was initially performed with GIMP. After about a year I graduated to an Equatorial mount (ZEQ25) but still unguided. At that time an Orion ED80 was loaned to me by an AP Forum member named Frazzles (what a kind gesture) which produced greatly improved images without the "blue halos" so common with achromats. After about a year I finally took the plunge and purchased an Orion Magnificient Mini Autoguider package and started guiding. Next I had the Canon camera modified (by Gary Honis) to capture the hydrogen alpha emissions so prevalent in many nebulae. This opened up a whole world of new targets. Next dithering was added to help reduce the noise in the stacked images. Finally I purchased an Explore Scientific ED102 CF telescope to help with the smaller targets. I've recently added a William Optics WO Star71 (ii) for WFOV imaging and it is now the only telescope I use.
Because of the bad light pollution I decided to upgrade my equipment and changed from the DSLR camera to a cooled camera with a Filter Wheel. I use narrow spectral band filters (3 nm spectral bandwidth Hydrogen, Oxygen and Sulfur filters) to reject most of the light pollution while still allowing all of the signal coming from nebula targets. This approach greatly reduces the noise in the images which producing much sharper images. I also started using a program named APT (Astro Photography Tool) which controls the telescope mount, the camera, the filter wheel, the guide camera and the focus motor (a new addition to my equipment). Very convenient to have one program control all the equipment!
As mentioned above, my processing started with GIMP. I moved on to Photoshop, and, now PixInsight which is a software program dedicated to astrophotography image processing.
MY ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY SETUP:
The picture below shows my current AP setup at the end of my mobile home driveway (where all AP images are taken). The street in the picture (in front of my mobile home) runs North-South with North being towards the red fence at the end of the street. You can see how close together the mobile homes are situated.
The picture below shows a closer view of my setup. The main telescope (with the gold lens cap in place) is not very large with only a 71mm aperture. This provides a nice wide Field-of-View for photographing nebulae. The small telescope on top is the guide camera scope. The filter wheel is the black disk attached to the back of the main telescope and the red cooled camera is behind that. The plastic box on the ground with the red cover on it contains a multi-port USB hub. It transmits the information from the cooled camera, the guide camera, the filter wheel, the focus motor and the mount through the black cable back to a laptop inside the house. That laptop controls everything from my dining room table. Makes for a comfortable night of capturing images!
The picture below shows how close the mobile homes across the street are. I have to wait until the nebulae are well above the mobile home roofs so that heat waves off of the roofs don't cause guiding issues that blur the images. The white globe towards the left of the image is one of our mobile home park "street lights". I put a cardboard box over that globe whenever I'm taking pictures!
MY EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE
Telescope: William Optics WO Star 71 (II)
Camera: ASI1600MM cooled camera
Filters: Chroma 3nm Ha/Oiii/Sii Narrowband + L/R/G/B in 8-Posiotion Filter Wheel
Mount: iOptron CEM40 EC
Guide Hardware: Orion Magnificent Mini Autoguider Package
Focus Motor: MoonLight High Resolution Stepper Motor
APT (Astro Photography Tool)
Thanks for visiting my website. I hopy you enjoyed your visit.