About the Authors

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In this page, both authors of this website introduce themselves - and each other. They describe their personal background and expertise with regards to amateur astronomy. Both are based in eastern Austria in Europe. E-mail contacts are given below.

 
Howdii at the Telescope

Hello, my name is Wolfgang Howurek alias Howdii. I got interested in astronomy when I was a boy. My father showed me the stars and told me how to find the constellations. Soon I bought my first astronomy book, and got my first telescope: a 60/700mm department-store refractor. This little scope showed me the rings of Saturn for the first time, the prominent cloud belts on Jupiter and its four moons, as well as some bright deep sky objects like the Great Orion Nebula. The images of deep sky objects were very dim in this small refractor. Soon I had my first equipment upgrade: a 110/900mm Newtonian. This scope had quite good optics, but a shaky mount and a very shaky tripod. I later built a solid wooden tripod and learned how to tweak the mount for best stability. With this little Newtonian I saw many Messier objects for my first time.

Astronomy was a bit asleep for some years in my younger days. After my "comeback" I soon bought my first "real" astronomical telescope. I also got lots of books about astronomy, observing and telescope optics. With time my collection of telescopes grew. Currently I own 6 telescopes: a 4" f/8 APO refractor, a 5.7" f/6 Maksutov-Newtonian (my favorite scope), a 6" f/10 Maksutov-Cassegrainian, an 8" f/6 Maksutov-Newtonian, an 8" f/4 Newtonian and an 18" f/4.4 Dobsonian. And as you can guess, there is a large gap between 8" and 18", something may follow...

What do I do with all those telescopes? Observing, of course - my main targets on the night sky are "faint fuzzies". And alas, every time I start out for an observing session, the telescope I choose is at least one number too small for the objects I have on my list ;-) Most time I have to observe under less dark skies, because I cannot spend the long drive to the mountains very often, also in general, my time for observing is very limited.

Everybody is some kind of hunter-gatherer - I'm hunting faint fuzzies, and I'm gathering telescopes. I learned how to star-test telescopes. Since then I've tested and evaluated dozens of telescopes. However, a warning: Don't learn the star test; you will see optical faults instead of stars for years, whenever you look through a telescope... It took a real long time for me to find back to "normal" observing. And still, I'm not sure if I'm more interested in astronomy or in telescope optics. So, no one knows what I'm really doing when I look through a scope ;-)

About Walter:

He always strives for the darkest possible skies. Therefore, he has to drive lots of kilometers. Often he starts out very late at night, when other people (like me) think about going to bed... Sometimes it's possible for me to join and then we set up our telescopes side by side. While I begin my observations, Walter is still busy with his gear. Obviously it has enough loose parts to drop, because I often see him searching for something on the ground. When he eventually is ready to take the first photo, I'm regularly already tired from observing. This is what I'm admiring: Walter's pertinacity against all inconvenience and Dr. Murphy, his patience to bother with problems in the dark, and his intentness to take at least one photo per night.

Of course, when I'm standing nearby Walter likes it to look through my telescope, what I'm just observing. Maybe this is one factor why it takes him so long to set up his gear. And for sure, it's not only one photo that was ruined while he gazed through the eyepiece, trying to see what I claimed to have seen ;-) I think it is not good for his photos when I'm along out with him. All those pretty photos you can find here on this homepage, I think he must have taken them when he was out alone and not disturbed by me ;-)

 
Walter at the Telescope

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 love 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. To read more about my telescopes, my astrophotography setup and the equipment I use, read About these images.... 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.

About Howdii:

I got to know him in 1996, when comet Hyakutake stood on the night sky; he contacted me because our observation sites back then were situated close to each other, in the Weinviertel in Lower Austria. When we first met, I glanced with something like contempt at his strange black 5.7" Maksutov-Newtonian telescope, which seemed small to me (I used an 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope back then), but that feeling pretty soon changed into admiration because that optics easily outperformed my SCT! Regrettably, his favorite telescope is not built for astrophotography, and a photographic version of that type is no longer available...

I got to know Howdii as an expert in telescope optics, telescope testing, and - of course - as an excellent observer, who likes to go for objects which others describe as "impossible to observe" with the apertures he uses. I for sure learned a lot from him. His favorite object class have nowadays become planetary nebulae, most of them extremely faint fuzzies in any telescope below 18" of aperture, but still he usually observes them with his 5.7" or his 8" Mak-Newtonian telescopes, and enjoys doing that! Impossible to imagine ;-) Most of the time, when I take a "quick" look through his scope, I see nothing but blank sky, a few stars sprinkled across the field of view at most. If I am lucky, after a few minutes a faint, faint nebulosity will start to tickle my eyes... Hey, isn't that fun! His statement that he ruins some of my photos because he lures me away from my astrophoto setup with his objects may even contain some substance... ;-)

Together, we have spent many a night observing, and we have held our share of speeches and presentations. I do hold Howdii in high regard as to his knowledge and experience with optics, the star-test, observation techniques, and - well - automobiles ;-)

If you want to contact Howdii or Walter, say you have a question concerning observing, telescopes, astrophotography or generals astronomy, feel free to do so and click on one of the names below:

Howdii specializes in telescopes, optics, and observation techniques;
Walter concentrates on astrophotography, science, and extragalactics.

© 2010 Wolfgang "Howdii" Howurek & Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Walter Koprolin

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