Starry Vistas by Don J. McCrady

About Me

Preparing for a night of imagingLike many of you, I first became interested in this hobby in my early teen years when my parents bought me a 60mm Tasco refractor.  Of course, it was of terrible quality and the mount wobbled severely, but I spent a lot of time in the cold Edmonton winters (think -30°C) observing through it.  I remember seeing the disk of Jupiter, the disk of Saturn (but no rings... they were edge-on that year), and the Orion Nebula.  I also tried and failed to see Halley's comet with it.  However, I soon became frustrated with its shortcomings, and the Tasco fell into disuse and was eventually tossed.

I was re-introduced to this wonderful hobby at Christmas 2001, when my wife bought me a Meade DS2114ATS telescope, a 4.5" short-tube Newtonian reflector.  Now, this scope was also of fairly low quality, but compared with the old Tasco it was a vast improvement.  At least the mount didn't wobble, and the extra aperture allowed me to see quite a lot; I was actually quite productive with it.  With this scope, I saw my first cloud bands on Jupiter, the rings of Saturn for the first time, my first open cluster (Double Cluster), my first galaxy (Andromeda Galaxy), my first globular cluster (M13), my first double star (Almach), and my first comet (2002 Ikeya-Zhang).  In all, I logged about 70 objects with it in 6 months, which ain't bad.

Unfortunately, I had a look at Jupiter and Saturn through someone's 8" Orion Dobsonian, after which I was utterly disappointed with the comparatively horrible views I was getting from the Meade, so in July 2002 I upgraded to a 12.5" Discovery PDHQ, an astonishingly good telescope by any measure.  (Unfortunately, the maker appears to have gone out of business.)  With this telescope, I have completed my Messier list, and am well on my way to completing my Herschel 400 list.  It is still my main visual telescope.

In 2004 I caught the astrophotography bug.  Anticipating this, and also to satisfy my need for a more portable instrument, I purchased a Takahashi Sky 90, a 3.5" apochromatic doublet refractor, which is a really good wide-field performer despite its diminutive size, and an acceptable planetary scope as well.  Aside from being a very portable travel scope, it's also a killer imaging scope.  Almost all the images you'll find at this site were taken using this scope.  I currently mount this scope on a Takahashi EM-200 equatorial mount.

After a few furtive attempts at astrophotography with a webcam, I purchased a Canon Digital Rebel and used this as an astro-camera for two years.  Many of the images on this site were taken through this DSLR.  However, in 2006 I decided to upgrade to a dedicated astro-camera, and purchased an SBIG STL-4020M.  I chose the monochrome version so that I could do some narrowband imaging through an H-alpha filter, which helps a lot in my light-polluted backyard.

I do not call myself an amateur astronomer.  An astronomer, even an amateur one, does real science, and it would be rather pretentious of me to apply the term to myself.  I am a stargazer and a sky tourist, who probably has more in common with a birdwatcher than an astronomer.

I currently live in Redmond, Washington (near Seattle), where I work for a large and well-known software company.  I recently became a naturalized U.S. citizen, although I also retain my Canadian citizenship.  I grew up in the city of Edmonton, Alberta.  I also attended university there, receiving my B.Sc. from the University of Alberta.

I am married, and my wife Kristina and I have two boys, Nathaniel and Jonathan.