Welcome to Jarek's Amateur Astronomy Site
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I have been interested in astronomy and astrophysics since my middle school days, but I wasn't observing anything until relatively recently, i.e. 2002. Observing supplements my "theoretical" interest in astronomy - it would not be so much interesting if I didn't know some about the things I see, and on the other hand seeing adds a "personal touch" to knowledge. As by profession I am a theoretician (computational biology at present), and I read about astronomy (and observing) more than I do observe (or image). You may want to check my book resources page to see interesting books I have read (no, I am not associated with Amazon in any way other than being a good long time customer).

My practical amateur astronomy journey started in the summer of 2002 with a small 4.5" Dobsonian from Orion (SkyQuest 4.5), but morphed fast into a serious enterprise.  After approximately a year I added Celestron C9.25-SGT, then 80mm piggyback refractor (C80ED) and I was quite happy until I got aperture fever again ... My thoughts slowly focused on the biggest of the Celestron SCTs - the famous 14". That urge to have bigger and bigger and bigger telescope! I bet you know it very well . I had to buy 14" SCT, and so I did, and I am very happy with it. CGE1400 is a great scope, wonderful optics, excellent mount! It performs very well for visual, with good pointing accuracy. Many say that C14+C80ED would be too heavy for CGE mount for astrophotography, but for me it works very well in this aspect too (see "Astrophotography" section). C14 is a very versatile imaging platform - wide field with a Hyperstar, medium and high magnification with flatteners/reducers and very high resolution with a barlow(s) for planets. The only problem was that for each session I had to choose - visual or imaging since I couldn't do both at the same time with one scope ... I like both, so the next step was to buy a second big scope for strictly visual use. When I built my observatory (see below) I also acquired a purely visual scope - 18" Obsession Classic Dobsonian and C14 became a dedicated imaging scope. I have also added the second imaging scope: 10" Orion Newtonian with a field of view between this of C14 Hyperstar and C14 with a reducer.

As I already wrote I am interested in both visual observing and digital photography, for which I first acquired Meade's Deep Sky Imager (DSI the original color camera). It is a nice little CCD camera, very easy to use. I used it for some time, but the results were not that great - I think both due to mine and camera limitations. Then my wife Ewa got Canon Digital Rebel XTi for Christmas 2006: she used it for daytime photography, I used it at night . This was a big improvement, and after a while when I realized large chip (well, say APS-C) guided imaging is what I want and I got a Hutech modified Canon 40D. The next step was to get a second dedicated color imaging camera: QHY8 from CCD-Labs, necessary if I wanted to use my both imaging scopes simultaneously. I post my photos in the "Astrophotography" section, there are quite a few accumulated there already. The one last part of the imaging set that was still missing was a mono camera with a sensor comparable to Canon 40D or QHY8, to use with narrowband imaging and to produce luminance part for LRGB images with an RGB part supplied from my current color imagers ... This last part materialized in March 2010 in the form of SBIG ST-8300M camera - now it is time for imaging ...

I was pretty lucky to live in a place where light pollution is not severe, even though my first house in Ithaca was relatively close to the city I was still able to observe from my backyard's deck, and on a good night limiting magnitude was around 5.5 (depending on where I looked, worst part low in the west was probably ~4.0). A big drawback of my backyard observing was my field of view - there were trees around, and my declination limit was about -18 (and I needed good timing to use this opening!). However it all changed for the better in the summer of 2008.  We moved to a new house, much farer from the center of Ithaca, where I built a small backyard observatory! This is the ultimate in amateur astronomy and my dreams come true. At my new house the limiting magnitude is 6.26 (21.27 mag/sq arc sec) and now my declination limit is around -32 across all southern horizon - I have successfully imaged NGC253 galaxy in Sculptor! My observatory houses two permanent scopes: my old C14 , and Orion 10" Newtonian (both on CGE mounts) to be used for imaging only. I have also added a strictly visual large aperture portable scope: Obsession 18" classic. Now I can carry out imaging and do visual observing at the same time the same night. For me it is one of the best advantages of having an observatory. Well, after all I don't think there are any disadvantages of having an observatory anyway ... maybe except the price .

There are three local web resources I set up and maintain that may be of interest to you. The first one is a page with information about expected cloud coverage for Ithaca, NY (based on NOAA) with Sun and Moon data (from U.S. Naval Observatory). The second is an overlay of light pollution map on Virtual Earth covering Upstate NY and Northern Pennsylvania. The third is the Moon calendar for Ithaca, NY.

In the Fall 2012 Cornell University run a short story about my astro hobby in their Ezra Magazine and Cornell Chronicle.