Michael A. Stecker



Geert Vandenbulcke
Koksijde, Belgium
(Photo by Kathleen Vandenbulcke)


Contact information

I'm from 1953 vintage.  My interest in astronomy dates from when I was very young, let's say in the early 60's.  I got my first telescope, a 60 mm refractor, after I worked during holidays to earn enough money to buy this telescope.  After that I joined an astronomical society (VVS in Belgium) and also found other people in my wider neighborhood with an interest in telescopes and astronomy.  That's where and when I learned to grind and polish my first mirror, a 110 mm f/10 plate glass mirror that turned out quite well and was used for some time on a self-made mount.  I made a few more mirrors and telescopes after that. Once I finished my studies, I joined the Belgian Air Force as a student pilot in 1973 and got my "wings" in 1976.  With my first earnings I bought a 200 mm f/6 mirror from Fullerscopes in the United Kingdom.  This mirror was mounted in a PVC sewer tube which turned out so heavy that a stronger mount was needed.  So a Fullerscopes Mk 4 equatorial mount was bought and placed in a modified garden shelter: birth of my first observatory.  Around this time I also became interested in photography and so it was not long before astronomy and photography joined into a hobby I still have today.  In 1978 I got a transfer to the Search and Rescue unit in Koksijde and flew SAR missions with the Sea King Mk48.   I married in 1979, moved to a new home in Koksijde-Oostduinkerke, got two lovely daughters and of course built a small observatory in my garden.  This observatory was rebuilt and enlarged by the end of the 90's and now houses my present equipment (buying and selling and using lot's of equipment is part of the hobby, see my website).  I left the Belgian Air Force in 1997 and now work as a pilot for Noordzee Helikopters Vlaanderen (NHV) in Oostende, Belgium. In the meantime I saw the transition from film astrophotography to present day digital imaging and I'm surprised every day by what an amateur can accomplish these days.

Astronomy Tales
After I polished my first mirror, it had to be coated.  Aluminizing at that time was quite expensive, so chemical silvering was the way to go.  I got the necessary ingredients, read all about it what I could find at the time and then started the messy process in the kitchen, much to my mother's despair.  Well, I must say that the mirror did not get any silver on it at all, but a big glass dish that my mother normally used in the oven and that I used as a recipient for the mirror got a very nice shiny coating!  I also coated a few other glass recipients in subsequent silvering trials.  Who remembers the spectroscopic emulsions from Kodak: 103aO and E. These emulsions had an antireflection layer that had to be rinsed off after development. I'm surely not the only one who succeeded not only to remove the antireflection coating but the emulsion as well after a night of painstakingly visual guiding on a dim guide star...  And of course the many common astrophotographers mistakes: guiding many minutes while the camera shutter speed was set at 1/1000 or taking planet photos without film in the camera, etc etc etc.

     Astrophotography publications
Astronomy, Astronomy Now, Sky and Telescope, Heelal, Zenit, Astrobulletin, Practical Astronomer

Book and Newsletter
I compiled a book "Astrofotografie", a dutch astrophotography manual published by the
VVS astronomical association.

I have also published articles in our society's publication Heelal

I am the co÷rdinator of the VVS Astrophotography Section, I "own" and moderate a Yahoo-group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/werkgroepastrofotografie/ (Dutch language only)

Observing sites
Home site
My home observatory is in Koksijde (Oostduinkerke), Belgium.  The observing site is near
the coast, only 4 m AMSL.  This is a suburban location, on good nights I have a limiting magnitude of 5 straight overhead, but most of the time it is less. 

Remote site
I try to go to south-France for one or two weeks each year, these are not fixed locations,
mainly a combination of holiday and astronomy.

Astronomical Equipment
Takahashi Mewlon 300
TEC 140
Astro-Physics 1200GTO

CCD Cameras






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