Michael A. Stecker


Ray Gralak
San Jose, California


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Level of accuracy: City of San Jose, California, USA

I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where I went to Catholic grade school and a Christian College prep high school. I always had an aptitude for mathematics and science so with lots of hard work studying I earned a partial scholarship to Caltech where I graduated with a BSEE degree in 1984.

Despite my electrical engineering degree I never worked as that type of engineer. I found I was fascinated with the work I was doing to help put myself through college - computer programming - so I continued in that field. To this day I'm working in that field as a Senior Software Engineer at a local Silicon Valley hi-tech company.

I'm currently doing Windows .Net development at a hi-tech company in Silicon Valley (California). It is a challenge and a blast. In addition I have authored PEMPro (http://www.ccdware.com), an application that analyzes and reduces periodic error in telescope mounts. I have developed a Windows NT/XP control/status application called LexiPanel for my home theater pre-amplifier, a Lexicon MC-1 (http://www.gralak.com/LexiPanel). I have also developed several other software applications (PulseGuide and Sigma) with several more more on the way! PulseGuide is distributed with all new Astro-Physics goto mounts. The core code of Sigma is included in MaximDL V4 from Diffraction Limited.

Here are some of my interests:

Christianity: My wife Jerri and I are relatively new Christians. We joined Green Valley Christian in the fall of 1999 and have been actively pursuing our faith. Four years ago I took over the Church's web site. Since becoming the webmaster I completely revamped the site and actively update it every week.

Astronomy: When I was a kid I had a fascination for astronomy. I read all the books on the subject that I could find at the local libraries. I still can remember the blurry views of Jupiter provided by the department store refractor my parents bought for me. I never saw even one band on Jupiter but I plotted the daily motion of Jupiter's 4 largest satellites, trying to find the pattern of their motion.

As I grew older I found I had less and less time for Astronomy so my interest went dormant for many years... until early 1993. My wife and I were vacationing in the Medicino area at a Bed and Breakfast to celebrate our first anniversary. On the table in the room was a Celestron catalogue. After looking through that, seeing the wonderful pictures I decided I had to get back into astronomy.

A couple months later I bought an 8" Orion dobsonian telescope. My love for the hobby kept growing at an exponential rate. By the summer of 1995 I had built my own 17.5" truss-tube dobsonian with the help of my wife's grandfather, Joe McCord, a master craftsmen in the pattern-making trade.

My real interest was in doing astrophotography. After buying several other telescopes I finally bought a mount that was (barely) capable of tracking the motion of the stars. With that, a 4" high-quality refractor and an inexpensive CCD camera my dream started. The dream continued when I had the opportunity to purchase another very high quality refractor, this one 5" in aperture, and a superb telescope mount. That and a more expensive CCD camera improved the quality of my pictures even more.

The last step was obtaining a more expensive CCD camera and telescope mount. With these I have been able to take some very high quality images. Many of these images have been published in books, magazines (U.S. and foreign) and prestigious web sites (e.g. NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day). Mostly now I just use my telescopes to test software I am developing.

My other hobbies/interests are computers, digital photography, home theater, running, in-line skating, weight training and tennis.

 Astronomical Equipment
18" F/4.5 CPT Newtonian
Astro-Physics EDF160 160mm Refractor
Astro-Physics Traveler 105mm refractor
Celestron C9.25"
8" LX-200GPS

Astro-Physics 1200 GTO



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