Michael A. Stecker


Nik Szymanek, FRAS
West Horndon, Essex
United Kingdom

Contact information
Locator Map
Level of accuracy: town of  West Horndon, England

I’ve had a lifelong interest in astronomy but really caught the astronomy bug in 1980 and spent 10 years as an armchair astronomer. In 1990 I bought my first serious telescope, a Meade 10” LX3 SCT. Around this time came the introduction to the amateur market of the first CCD cameras, which proved to be a real bonus and could at last do battle with the ever-present light-pollution here in England. After a few years of learning the procedures to produce good images I travelled
to La Palma, in the Canary Islands, with a portable set-up to acquire images under the pristine conditions there. This proved to be a real turning point and I try to get over there at least once a year. I teamed up with a lot of the professional astronomers and public relations people at La Palma and on numerous occasions have been invited to apply my image processing techniques
to professional data taken with the 4.2m William Herschel, 2.5m Isaac Newton and 1m Jacobus Kapteyn telescopes located there. Two of these images have appeared as full page spreads in Sky & Telescope magazine’s “Images” section.

In 2003 I travelled to the observatory at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and spent an enjoyable 10 days doing film-based astrophotography at 14,000 ft and at the astronomers’ residential area at 9,000 ft. Part
of the reason for this trip was to acquire public-relations material to showcase the UK’s involvement with the telescopes at the Mauna Kea Observatory (predominantly, the James Clerk Maxwell Submillimetre telescope and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT). The funding for this visit was provided by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).

Observing trips abroad are still happening but recently I have become heavily involved with an exciting new venture, the Faulkes telescope Project. For this, I have been given unlimited observing time on a 2m robotic telescope located at an altitude of 10,000ft on the Hawaiian island of Maui. The telescope (along with a sister scope located at Siding Spring Observatory, Australia) is available for schools, colleges, universities etc. to use for observing projects. Many of the images I have taken with this telescope are available on my Web site.

In July 2004 I was very pleased to receive the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Amateur Achievement Award and travelled to Berkeley, California, to receive the award. During a very enjoyable few days there I was able to meet and hear lectures from many top name astronomy people, such as David Levy, Leif Robinson,  Tony Hallas, Geoff Marcy and many others.

My most-recent project is a book on astrophotography Infinity Rising, produced in collaboration with Astronomy Now, the leading UK astronomy magazine. I also have a fairly busy lecture schedule which covers astrophotography, CCD imaging, the trips to Hawaii and La Palma and image-processing techniques.

Other interests include rock drumming and listening to progressive rock bands such as Dream Theater, Symphony X, Rush, Yes.

Astrophotography publications
Astronomy Now, Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, Popular Astronomy, Sky at Night, BAA Journal, CCD Astronomy, Deep Sky Observer, Tahdet ja avaruus (Finland)
Infinity Rising

Astronomical Equipment
Pentax SDHF 75mm apochroamatic refractor
Vixen GP-DX with SkySensor 2000 mount
 Starlight Xpress SXV-H9 CCD camera
Canon EOS 20D digital SLR

Astronomik narrowband filters. IDAS RGB filters.


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