Michael A. Stecker



Ron Arbour
South Wonston (near Winchester, England)
 United Kingdom

Ron's Discoveries
33 supernovae, 1 galactic nova in M31, 2 variable stars, 1 active galaxy, several single night new minor planets.


Ron Arbour is:
72 year old retired research micro-photographer from the University of Southampton.
Past vice-president British Astronomical Association (BAA)
Founder and past director of Deep-Sky section (BAA)
Founder and past director of Astrophotography section (BAA)
Founder and past chairman Campaign for Dark Skies (BAA)
Founder and Honorary Life President Solent Amateur Astronomers
Past committee member of:
Federation Astronomical Societies
Junior Astronomical Society
The Astronomer
2008 recipient of the prestigious 'Walter Goodacre Award' of the
British Astronomical Association

Contact information


My interest in astronomy began at the age of two when my grandmother taught me some star names and constellations. Unusually, I was a telescope maker before I became interested in observational astronomy. At the age of twelve I made a 33mm spectacle lens telescope in a cardboard tube with a jewellers monocle and two years later, observed the close opposition of Mars in 1956. Not knowing that a dust storm was in progress, I blamed the small telescope for not showing any surface features and decided to make a 6” mirror and telescope. Some 50 years later I am still making telescopes.

 Telescope making had always been my main interest but this was about to change quite dramatically towards the end of the 1960’s. As my telescopes became more sophisticated I took a keen interest in astrophotography. It soon became apparent that I had to improve my skills in engineering – I bought a small lathe and taught myself to turn metal!

As my telescopes and photography improved, I was persuaded by Harold Ridley and Michael Hendrie, both expert comet photographers having  worldwide reputations, to try some work on comets and minor planets. It was then that I found ‘serious’ work could also be fun and, more importantly, challenging. To counteract a comet’s motion relative to the background stars, I designed and built the world’s first computerised, comet-tracking camera. (Published in the BAAJ, Sky& Telescope Oct 87  and  PULSAR  May - Jun 1986.

 Always trying to perfect the performance of telescopes, I took up long exposure astrophotography to seriously test my drive systems. I then drifted into, what I call, my ‘Stargazing period’ with a very keen interest in taking pretty pictures. To this end I built my own cameras, several of the cooled emulsion variety of my own design have been published in the Journal of the BAAJ 1979 Oct. and elsewhere.

 All this changed dramatically one night in the mid 1970’s. I terminated 3 exposures of M66 early because the guide star drifted too much. After developing the negatives and comparing the results with pictures in a textbook, I noted what appeared to be a star that was not present in the book’s image. Although it proved to be a bright HII region, it fired my imagination and started my obsession with supernova (SN) searching.

 I spent some 20 fruitless years SN searching using photographic emulsions and the manually operated 16” Newtonian with which I was able to pioneer unguided photography by using a friction roller drive and programmable quartz drive unit. The tracking rate was adjusted to allow for refraction by reference to a computer program that I wrote for the purpose. This was published in Sky & Telescope Nov. 1989.

 1997 I purchased a 30cm LX200 and modified it considerably. Although the image quality is inferior to the Newtonian, the ‘GOTO’ facility is vital for my SN hunting. With my friend, David Briggs, I have written software for my RiscOS (non-IBM compatible) computer to automate the Meade and conduct the only fully robotic patrol from the U.K. Not only does the scope slew to a list of available galaxies and take an image of each one, but it also loads the appropriate master image and blinks the pair automatically. The only thing it cannot do is automatic image subtraction – yet. The system is capable of 100 images per hour and well over 1000 per night.

Areas of interest

Supernova searching, Telescope making

Astrophotography publications
Magazines and Journals
Sky & Telescope, BAA Journal, The Astronomer, Astronomy Now, Deep-Sky Observer, The Astrograph, RMTC, Pulsar, Hermes, Federation of Astronomical Societies, Amateur Photographer, Camera Magazine, and numerous society magazines.

Books by
Patrick  Moore, Heather Couper, Nigel Henbest, Ian Ridpath, Robin Scagell, Storm Dunlop, Colin Ronan, Gerald North, Martin Mobberley.

Many photographs & CCD images on Patrick Moore’s BBC ‘Sky at Night’.

Observing site
Pennell Observatory, South Wonston England

Astronomical Equipment
16" (40cm) Newtonian (pictured above), upgraded with a new and drive and a set of MKS 4000 Software Bisque electronics.

12” Meade LX200

CCD cameras
Starlight Xpress SX, MX916, SXV-H9

4 networked plus home-brewed software


back link