Michael A. Stecker


Walter Koprolin, Ph.D.
Vienna, Austria

Contact information
Locator Map
Level of accuracy: City of Vienna, Austria

Hi, I am Walter Koprolin. I may not be the typical amateur astronomer, as I
have actually studied astronomy at the University of Vienna and finished with
a doctorate. But let's start at the beginning:

I got interested in astronomy when I was about 17, my interest was probably
kindled by a small department-store refractor which my family had stored in
our garden-house. This had been purchased by my grandmother, back at the
beginning of the '80s. Well, the views it offered were not really satisfying,
as the optics were exceedingly bad; stars looked like planets as the scope was
not able to show anything else but disks of light. Additionally, the mount was
very shaky. However, I got curious enough to attend a basic astronomy course
held by Hermann Mucke at Vienna's planetarium. During that course, another
small refractor was introduced as ideal entry-level telescope, a 63mm Zeiss
Telementor achromat, back then still produced in Eastern Germany, and thus not
expensive. A few weeks later, I found a sample of this telescope under the
Christmas Tree, along with a few astronomy books, and reasonable observations
became possible for the first time. Soon thereafter I began to take my first
astrophotos, I started with hand-guided telelens photos.

As I grew older, my passion for astronomy, especially for extragalactic
astronomy (I like those galaxies...) deepened, and I decided to study
astronomy at university parallel to my course of studies in Technical Physics.
I found studying astronomy easy and enjoyable, and got my master's degree in
astronomy in 1997 and my doctorate in 2004. Both my diploma and my Ph.D.
thesis where about extragalactics, what else would you think? ;-) My fields of
research were the kinematics of early-type (elliptical and lenticular)
galaxies, and the physical properties of the stellar population and the gas in
Blue Compact Dwarf Galaxies.

During time, my collection of telescopes grew, but I have always specialized
in scopes which are dedicated to astrophotography, or at least also usable in
that regard. However I also enjoy using them visually.

For getting good astrophotos, I am willing to accept a lot of inconveniences:
I start out when others think about bed, I a lot of of kilometers to get to
really dark skies, and I can take up with very low temperatures, icy roads,
deep snow at the observation site; mechanical, electrical and software
problems of my setup, etc., etc. If I am able to take at least one astrophoto
which I consider well-done, I think of it as a successful night.

Astophotographic philosophy
As for my philosophy in astrophotography, I go for esthetics, and not strictly
for scientific content. A scientifically correctly reduced CCD image will not
look very attractive. I use nonlinear enhancement for my astrophotos, trying
to get as much faint structure and detail out of the deep-sky objects I
photograph as possible, but I still want it to look natural and pleasing to
the eye. The motivation for doing astrophotography has somewhat broadened
during all those years: I wish to show the beauty and the science of
astronomical objects and of the night sky in general to anyone who cares, to
get people interested, even those who do not have or take the time to go
outside and see for themselves. For there is rarely a more wonderful sight in
nature than standing at night under a clear, dark sky far from any disturbing
artificial light and seeing myriads of stars and the Milky Way running from
horizon to horizon... That is why I like to go observing at remote sites,
where it gets as dark as possible, there I feel somewhat closer to the sheer
beauty of the sky.

Astronomy Tale
From time to time it seems that I draw some attention by the police when doing
astrophotography. A few years back, when I was photographing besides a parking
lot of a mountain road high up in the Austrian Alps, suddenly a car approached
with full lights. It came to a sudden halt when my setup got into the glare of
its headlights, thus ruining the photo - and my dark adaption. "Such a jerk!",
I thought. Well, two men climbed out the car, carrying strong flashlights and
wearing uniforms - oops, police. They probably thought I had the intention of
breaking into the kiosk besides which I had set up my equipment (for
wind-protection) - or maybe I was battering down airplanes with my
dangerous-looking twin-flak cannon (I had two refractors on my mount)? Well,
in any case, they closely examined my equipment and my person before asking me
a lot of questions to ascertain what I was really up to. After a while, they
had uncovered me as being a "harmless" spinner who is just stealing light from
the stars - a crime which has not yet found it way into code-books of law, and
they finally left, not without mentioning that they had my name in case
anything was amiss the next day...

Areas of interest
Deep-sky astrophotography, mostly wide-field work
A little bit of planetary imaging
Extragalactics, especially dwarf galaxies (professional)

Astrophotography publications
German astronomy magazines
Sterne & Weltraum, Ahnerts Astronomisches Jahrbuch, Interstellarum,
Star Observer

A few astronomy books.

Observing site
Ebenwaldhöhe, Lower Austria (standard site)
Glockner-Hochalpenstraße, Salzburg/Carinthia (once a year - for the very
darkest sky)
Various sites around Vienna (for quick shooting and testing)

Astronomical Equipment
see: http://astro.nightsky.at/Photo/#About

TMB 105 f/6.2, a 4.1" Triplet APO refractor (for standard wide-field imaging)
JSO 4.9" f/3.8 Wright-Newtonian
 (a rather exotic scope for extreme wide-field work)
Meade 8" f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain (for long focal length photography)

Vixen GP-DX

Nikon D70 digital SLR
Nikon F3
Nikon FE

Imaging software
Adobe Photoshop CS 8.0
SGBNR 1.0.4 (for background-smoothing)


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