History

I've been interested in astronomy for as long as I can remember. For a while in college I majored in astrophysics, but along the way I decided that I wouldn't be happy working in an academic setting, so I switched to physics and decided to continue my pursuits in astronomy as an amateur.

Truly, astronomy is one of the few sciences where the contributions of amateurs remain both useful and welcome. Advances in instrumentation now allow amateurs to collect data of a quality possible only at professional observatories just a few years ago. The sky is very big, and the number of professional telescopes is very small, so there is always some unexplored object that can be studied, and some researcher happy to have an additional source of fresh data.

My own interests have always lain in two separate areas: instrumentation and imaging. As long ago as the late 1970s I constructed an automated telescope mount and a CCD camera. Such technology, common today, was very rare at that time. I continue today to explore new mount designs and imaging technology, and am very interested in robotic observing.

One thing I have never been all that interested in is visual observing. While there are a few objects that I find fascinating at the eyepiece (the Moon, Sun, and planets among them), for the most part I don't enjoy either the manual search for faint fuzzy objects, nor the view once found.

Since 2001 I have been a Research Associate at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, in both the Earth Science (Geology) department and the Space Science department. I was involved in much of the technical development of the Museum's Allsky Camera project, and now act as principle investigator for that project through Cloudbait Observatory.

The Old DaysMy first real scope. This picture is from 1978. I am at the eyepiece of the 6" reflector and my friend Stefan Demetrescu is by the computer. Stefan and I designed the 6800 based computer that is guiding the scope and collecting images from its CCD camera. The mount is motorized on both axes, with each axis utilizing two motors and a differential gear system to achieve a wide range of tracking and slewing speeds. The 2.5 inch refractor attached to the main tube is an autoguider using a 2D lateral effect photodiode to correct the telescope's position.

Early CCD ImageEarly CCD image. 10 minute exposure with the above described 6" scope. The camera consists of a 100X100 element CCD array (Fairchild CCD201), cooled to about 0°C by alcohol and ice. This image of M51 was made in 1977, and I believe it to be one of the first amateur CCD images taken.


© Copyright 2009, Chris L Peterson. All rights reserved.