Michael A. Stecker


Jan S. Rek
Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire


Contact information

At the start of the 2nd World War, a polish airman called Jozef was evacuated with many of his squadron ahead of the occupation by the German invaders. He arrived in England in September 1939 and joined a Royal Air Force bomber base in the Midlands. He eventually became a rear gunner in the Wellington bombers and on a weekend's leave he took a trip to Blackpool on the West coast of Lancashire. Here he met a young and attractive lady called Dorothy. They were married within 6 months. Not bad considering he spoke no English when he arrived in the country! Two daughters followed quickly but he was then shot down over Holland on a mission to Germany. Having received a note from the Ministry reporting that he was missing, presumed killed in action, Dorothy almost gave up hope. She even received a request for payment of his bar bill at the NAAFI where he had been based! Nine months later, after being smuggled from Holland to Greece and by ship back to the UK, he appeared on the doorstep and went back into action. A year later he was shot down again but this time didn't escape. He was held in a concentration camp in Poland  and Dorothy again thought him killed in action until the end of the war in 1946. On his return home after liberation, Dorothy became pregnant again and here I am, son of Jozef, born 11 September 1946. That explains my Polish name and why I'm now retired at the civilised age of 60.

 My original interest in astronomy was sparked by the father of my best pal at junior school. He paid 6 old pennies at a church charity sale for a tatty book of hand drawn traditional representations of the Constellations. It showed the Great Bear, Hercules, Hydra and the rest of the mythical depictions in the stars. My grandad gave me an old 1" lens folding brass navy telescope to help me look at a few things and I've wanted to see more ever since. I treasured that telescope for years to come and when my best pal's dad started to take us out on "midnight walks" to look at the stars that made it an even bigger thrill. After all I was only about 9 years old at the time.

 After trying to build my own telescope in my teens, I was frustrated that I couldn't afford to buy the parts but eventually cobbled together an 8.5" Newtonian reflector on an English Fork mounting by the time I was 16. Then serious school and graduation came along and I had to choose a subject to major in, leaving my interest in hold. I eventually graduated from Liverpool University with an honours degree in Physics in 1968. My local council, by sheer twist of fate, then offered to fund my further study in astronomy and I graduated from University College, London, with a degree in Astronomy in July 1970. These were among the best two years of my life - even though I didn't excell.

 I discovered very quickly that there was no money in astronomy at that time (in the UK). I then spent most the next 33 years raising a family, and earning a crust in sales, sales management and sales directorships in computer systems and then telecommunications infrastructure manufacturing companies. My first telescope purchase was a Celestron Ultima C11 and the first CCD camera was an SBIG ST-4 in 1991. This was enough to tell me that the mount and the CCD were not quite up to the task but things were moving fast. I took early retirement in December 2000 from Alcatel (UK) and then focussed on my two interests: renovating the house and getting serious about imaging. It was the right time to start imaging as everyone knows :- technology had moved quickly, prices were down to being affordable to the amateur and some excellent new companies were doing their best to bring quality equipment and software to the layman. What a great job they have done for us!

 I am now in my element. A wonderful partner, two beautiful daughters, two beautiful step-daughters and lots of technology. Retired, have a serious interest, affordable equipment and some great amateur "experts" to help me along. And.....long live Yahoo groups and may they exist forever in the vastness of the universe....

Areas of interest
Every aspect of the equipment and software to help me take deep sky CCD images in tri-colour and narrowband schemes. I love to attend star parties in the USA with my 70x15 binoculars and a good star map once a year to keep in touch with the sky.

Astrophotography publications
May 2007 edition of Astronomy Now: picture of the month. Subject : The Pleiades - deep.   Can be viewed at : http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jan.rek/M45-9%20Image%20Details.htm

Observing site
A "Summer House" style observatory with manual roll-off roof in my back garden in Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire, England
Longitude 1 degree 10 minutes West and Latitude 53 degrees 5 minutes North. See : http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jan.rek/aboutthissite.htm

 By the end of 2007 I expect to have an additional new telescope and CCD in a rented observatory somewhere high, somewhere further South and not in the UK to operate remotely from home.

Astronomical Equipment
Astro-Physics AP155 EDF refractor at f/7
Takahashi FSQ106N astrograph refractor at f/5 piggy-backed on the AP155

By Dec 2007 : AstroTech 16" RC, AO-L, Paramount robotic mount, ST-1000M CCD , FW8-L in remote observatory

Astro-Physics 1200 GTO mount
SBIG ST-10XME CCD #1 with CFW10 Filter unit
SBIG ST-11000M CCD #2 with FW8-L filter unit
MaxIm DL V4.53, TheSky V6 Serious Amateur, CCDStack, PhotoShop CS2, PemPro, TPoint, RoboFocus, Win XP Pro Remote Desktop


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