Michael A. Stecker


Samir Kharusi, Ph.D.
Muscat, Oman


Contact information.
Locator Map
Level of accuracy: Muscat, Oman

Hi, my name is Samir Kharusi and I live in Muscat, Oman on the southeastern portion of the Arabian Peninsula near the entrance to the Persian Gulf.  I am originally from Zanzibar where I received my primary education.  I attended college overseas earning a B.Sc in physics from Birmingham University, England and an M.Sc. and Ph.D. from McGill University, Montreal, Canada.  My Ph.D. thesis was: "Diffraction in Anisotropic Crystals".  Most
of my working life was spent as a petroleum engineer/manager in the Shell Group, in Muscat, The Hague and
London, finally retiring as Oil Director in Petroleum Development Oman, a Shell Group operating company.

Over here the weather is sort of perfect for the six months of winter astro-season, blue skies with temperatures between 20 and 30 degree C; and to be avoided if at all possible for the six months of summer, blue skies but with heavy haze and temperatures between 30 and 45 degree C. I first got interested in astronomy as a teenager in Zanzibar. Yes, some people actually live in such remote locations. Bought a book called “Teach Yourself Astronomy” and after months of determined effort I managed to identify Orion and Crux. I had to specially order my first scope, a 90mm achro, from Japan through a local photo store and it cost me some $10 total. Turned out they had a misprint on the invoice… I then managed to find Saturn and Jupiter. Ordered a custom adapter from England to connect an Exakta Varex SLR to it and even managed to take a photo of the Moon. End of astronomy for the next 30 years. Bought a Celestron Ultima 2000-8” in the late 1990s and rekindled interest. Since my main hobby has always been photography, I ended up acquiring all sorts of gizmos to enable astrophotography. Ah, the naivety of the innocent. We do believe the ad hype and the next gadget will achieve wonders…

Struggled with the U2K for a few years and finally decided to upgrade the mount. Chose to go for an AP1200. Put my name on the waitlist and bought a Celestron CGE1400 to live out the wait. The CGE was quite an upgrade on the U2K and is reasonably capable with autoguiding and reasonable focal lengths, say <1500mm. My name on the AP1200 finally came up in 2005 and one of these days I’ll actually use the AP mount. It’s still in boxes somewhere.

Cameras, another long saga. Started off with film and then salivated over an astro CCD, the SBIG Pixcel 237. This can be used on the U2K in Fastar configuration. The magazines paint an overly rosy picture as to what is possible with CCDs. Basically, if your home site is heavily light polluted, as mine is, you are condemned to suffering endlessly. But then you see all those beautiful images taken from “polluted suburban skies”. Unfortunately what one man terms “polluted” turns out to be dark sky nirvana compared to your own patch. So I ended up developing an objective method of measuring skyfog using a consumer digital camera. Finally, after years of slogging, I think I have found what works, what does not, and what is an exercise in futility. It’s much easier to know what you need to do to achieve beautiful astro-images than to actually do it. Step 1: lug all that stuff to a dark site…

Since my main interest is photography and secondarily astrophotography, I have ended up being an avid user of Canon DSLRs and Canon lenses for much of my astrophotography. For planetary imaging I use a C14 and a webcam. My first attempt with a webcam turned out to be such a major leap from either film or the SBIG 237 that there simply was no going back. Similarly my first dabble with a Canon 1Ds using a 14mm lens on the Milky Way yanked me away from astro CCDs, possibly forever. Talk about wide field. A 4x6ft print of the Milky Way is breathtaking! No way can you go back to a megapixel CCD. My latest toy is a Canon 20D modded to record everything in full glory from 400nm to 950nm. The possibilities are endless… I’d urge anyone fooling around in astro-photography to try out a modded Canon DSLR and be pleasantly surprised at how revolutionary the latest cameras really are. Astro CCDs? Heck, you still need an autoguider but if I was a packager of astroCCDs I’d urgently also get hold of one of these modded Canon DSLRs and gauge the competitive threat. Now, if only one can find a self-contained autoguided mount that weighs less than 10kg and takes only 15 minutes to set up. Imagine sticking your 16 megapixel DSLR with some humongous lens on it, I use a Canon 600/4, autofocus (yes, I do love the one-click autofocus at night and it actually works on all the Canon superteles) and off you go. Perhaps in a couple of years… My website: http://www.geocities.com/samirkharusi/

Observing site
Home observatory at Azaiba, Muscat, Oman
Latitude: 23 degrees, 36.8 minutes North
Longitude: 58 degrees, 35.6 minutes East

Astronomical Equipment
Celestron 14-inch SCT
Astro-Physics 1200 GTO
Celestron CGE1400

SBIG 237
Philips ToUcam Pro webcam
Canon 1Ds
Canon 20D, Hutech modded
Canon 600 mm, f/4 lens
Canon lenses: 28mm/1.8, 50mm/1.4, 100mm/2.8macro, 200mm/2.8, 1.4x, 2x
Tamron 14mm/2.8 lens


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