Michael A. Stecker


John C. Smith
Tucson, Arizona

Contact information

I was born in Philadelphia and spent most of my career in the northeastern US.   With degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering, I worked in many aspects of science and technology, eventually ending as a senior executive in a high technology company.  We moved to our present home in Arizona when I retired.  With hobbies like astronomy, computers and photography, it was unavoidable that at some point I would get into CCD-imaging.  I have pursued this almost as a full time job and find the pursuit very rewarding.

Astronomy Tale
When my wife and I first got together, we did the usual sharing of stories and, when I mentioned my interest in astronomy in high school, she bought me a 6” reflector as a birthday gift.  Boy was that a mistake!  Many telescopes have come and gone since then and the culmination was my cutting a hole in our garage roof to build my observatory.  Nevertheless, she remains very supportive in everything I do.

Areas of interest
I am primarily interested in CCD imaging, with galaxies as my favorite targets.  I like to tune equipment to get the most out of it and understand the underlying technology from first principles as much as possible.  I generally publish the results of my studies on my web site.

Astrophotography publications
Contributor to Crux, a publication of the Astronomy Society of Victoria
Contributor to Niebo na weekend, an astronomy book published in Poland
Exhibitor at the Denver
Museum of Science
Cover photo for Starfire, a musical CD by Judy Hunt
Sky and Telescope: July 2004, November 2004, March 2005
Concepts in Image Acquisition, Advanced Imaging Conference, 2004
Why a Ritchey-Chrétien Telescope? Advanced Imaging Conference, 2004
Author of CCDAutoPilot2 (image acquisition automation software)

Observing site
All imaging and observing is done at my home-made Hidden Loft Observatory located in the northwest suburbs of Tucson, Arizona.  Sky brightness is around 4.5 on the Bortle scale and seeing averages a bit under 2 arc-sec. 

Astronomical Equipment
RCOS 14.5” Ritchey-Chrétien F/9 telescope with optics by Aries and a Takahashi FSQ-106 refractor.  All equipment is mounted on a Software Bisque Paramount ME

CCD equipment
My imaging equipment consists of a Finger Lakes Instrumentation IMG6303E camera and CFW-7 filter wheel and a SBIG ST-402ME guider.  All equipment is remotely controlled from my home office.

Software consists primarily of the CCDAutoPilot2, the Software Bisque Observatory Suite, Maxim and Photoshop

Although retired from my former career, I remain active by offering consulting services for equipment installation, setup and alignment, image acquisition and processing for amateur and academic clients.  As of this writing, I have setup and collimated 17 Ritchey-Chrétien telescopes across the country, ranging in size from 10” to 20”.


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