Now I live in eastern Ohio, and here, its always cloudy with the occasional clear night, and even then, the transparency is seldom good. Nevertheless, I decided to give astronomy a try, and with the new technology, being able to photograph on the cheap, added a dimension to my observing. Today, I spend most of my observing time looking at a computer screen rather than through an eyepiece. Don't get me wrong, I still look at some of the brighter deep sky objects visually, but I tend to spend most of my observing time looking at camera images. Its just too cool! I think its the geek in me that is somehow attracted to this aspect of astronomy.
I am also a ham radio operator - callsign is KD0AR. I also have a blog for my ham radio activities at http://kd0ar.blogspot.com
I work as a broadcast engineer and IT for a group of radio stations in western Pennsylvania, plus I work part time for a small group of stations in Youngstown, OH. I live in New Middletown, OH, where the sky is reasonably dark, far enough from the city to not be too badly bothered by the city lights of Youngstown.
Now, let me talk about the equipment that I currently use. I own 4 telescopes. My "first" scope was a Meade 70NG, 70mm refractor. I've taken some real nice pictures with it. I've taken some real crap too, while I was learning how to do this, but they quickly improved once I figured out how to set up the camera properly. After about a month, I found a 114mm reflector (Meade Jupiter) at a flea market. It was filthy and badly collimated. I was able to clean it up, the primary seems to be adequate, but as of this writing, it is still not well collimated. I have taken some photos with it, but due to the construction of the scope, it suffers a very bad vibration problem from my home made clock drive. The optical tube seems to amplify the vibration from the clock drive, possibly because of how lightweight it is constructed. I later found a 2nd one of these, complete with an RA clock drive which runs far smoother. I still use the mount, and I've adapted my 127mm refractor to it, which is described in the next paragraph.
My next scope is a home made 127 mm refractor. It's focal length is 700 mm, and is a simple 2 element objective. Yes it has a little color, but imaging with filters seems to help.
I then purchased a 6 inch Dobsonian, which is what I've been using since around July of 2011. It is my best scope to date, and when its aligned properly, it takes pretty good images when used with a home made Ponset platform which I built about a month after I got this scope.
The cameras that I've used so far are all webcams. My first cam that I've used for astronomy was a Logitech C310, which actually works pretty well. Its drawbacks are that it uses a cmos sensor, so the shutter cannot be changed except by changing the frame rate. Trouble is, with any imperfections in the mount (and my mount isnt perfect), the slow frame rate shows vibration blur in the images. If you speed up the frame rate, which reduces vibration blur, there is more compression of the images, so there isnt as much detail.
I picked up an older Logitech Quickcam Pro 4000 on ebay around March - April of 2011.. This camera uses a CCD sensor, and the shutter can be controlled independently from the frame rate. My latest images have used a fast shutter with a medium to slow frame rate. This combination has provided excellent lunar images. This camera takes really nice planetary images.
I hope you enjoy what I have posted. Keep an eye on the blog and come back to it often, I have been quite good at keeping this updated and I'll have new pictures up every time I'm able to get out to photograph.
Now for a little blurb regarding my personal psychology in regard to Astronomy as a science.
One thing I'd like to point out is that I am by no means a "scientist". I do this to try to push the limits on the technology that I have at my disposal, and to create eye pleasing, detailed images. I doubt seriously that with the simple equipment and know-how at my disposal that I'll be making any drastic astronomical discoveries. I am not looking, nor am I in the hobby for that reason. In fact, many of the astronomical theories that the science community considers to be fact, I have a bit of trouble believing. My belief in the Judeo-Christian bible contradicts some astronomical facts. For instance, it is arrogant of us to think that the Milky Way is in the center of the universe. Why do I say this? Because as the science community searches for the most distant galaxies, looking for the location of the "Big Bang", and they are indeed finding objects VERY far away, they have neither found the location of the Big Bang, nor have they found the "edge of the Universe". Scientists believe they are getting close to finding the location of the "Big Bang", as they find red-shifted galaxies billions of light years away. However, I have not heard of a discovery finding the edge of the universe in the other direction. The Big Bang theory suggests a finite size of the universe. Looking in one direction to find the Big Bang one would also think that if one looked in the opposite direction they would find the edge where the universe is still expanding - the opposite edge of the universe. To my knowledge, the Universe exists all around us, which would place us somewhere near its center. This to me is a bit arrogant to think that we are the center of the universe - unless one believes in creationism.
Do I believe there is life on another world outside Earth? Sure, why not! The sheer numbers of exoplanets that have been discovered in recent years, the odds of some of them containing life certainly is possible. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests that Earth is the only planet with life, however, I do believe that Earth is the only world with INTELLIGENT life. Microbes, plant life, etc. most probably will exist elsewhere. I do not believe in "Parallel Earth's", where there is intelligent life exists. I believe also in "Intelligent design". To quote Capt. Picard of Star Trek, The Next Generation in speaking to 'Q', "The universe is not so poorly designed". If one were to think about the delicate balance, the sheer chance that a small, rocky planet would exist around a star at exactly the right distance, in a perfectly circular (or near so) orbit where temperature is just right for life, plus all of the right elements exist in exact quantities to support that life is just too circumstantial to suggest anything except that Earth was "Created" for man by God. The complexity of life itself contradicts any other theories out there.
That being said, I still find it fascinating to follow the scientific discoveries of space. They are finding some incredible things....even within our own solar system - saltwater oceans on Europa, water on our own moon, etc. None of these discoveries have yet to indicate life on any of these places, although they are looking. It would be cool if they find fish in the saltwater oceans of Europa. However if we receive confirm-able, intelligent radio signals emanating from outside our solar system, I might be persuaded to change my thinking regarding intelligence beyond Earth.