The following people contributed hacks, writing, and inspiration to this book:

  • Gene Baraff is now learning the night sky. What a pity he waited because there was so much more of it back in the time when he used to observe in daylight only. Back then, like most teenage amateurs of his generation, astronomy meant grinding his own mirrors and building his own mounts. His first mirror was the standard 6" f/8, mounted in a Horseshoe-type equatorial mount. Its performance was very similar to that of the inexpensive imported equatorial mounts of today; i.e., it was inadequate in every detail.

    His second mirror, also 6" f/8 and ground after his first was stolen, was intended for solar use. It was mounted much more solidly. That mirror and mount, recently refurbished, are still usable today. The mirror was initially used unsilvered, to allow most of the Sun's rays to go out through the back of the scope. The diagonal, a prism mounted with its hypotenuse facing toward the mirror, allowed most of the light returned from the primary to pass harmlessly out of the front of the scope. Several cameras were built and used with this scope, and a brief note describing them appeared in the October 1947 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.

    In the years since, Gene became a scientist, participated in the 1954 H-Bomb tests in the Pacific, got a doctorate in physics, worked for 40 years as a theoretical physicist for Bell Laboratories, and retired to go back to astronomy. Wife (the same one all these years), kids, grandkids, and the Skyquest-Telescope Forum take up major pleasurable amounts of his time.

  • Mary Chervenak received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Duke University in 1995. After two years of post-doctoral research at the University of Alberta, she joined the Biocides group at Union Carbide in 1997. When Union Carbide was purchased in 1999, Mary accepted a position with The Dow Chemical Company's Antimicrobial group. She currently works in Technical Service and Development for UCAR Emulsion Systems (also The Dow Chemical Company). Although she spends far more time peering through a microscope than a telescope and her hobbies are not conducive to late-night stargazing sessions, she enjoys running under the stars and admiring the vast and startling beauty of the sky.

  • Many amateur astronomers begin their hobby as teenagers. Not Steve Childers. He never even looked through a telescope until he was 51 years old. Spending most of his life under urban lights, Steve never paid any attention to the night sky. When he first considered purchasing a scope in 2002, Steve only knew two constellations by eye (the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia). He had no idea whether they appeared in the summer or winter, and, in fact, he would have been surprised to learn that constellations in general were not visible all year round. So, like many other people, his first purchase would probably have been a cheap department store telescope, spelling the end to a short-lived interest in astronomy. Fortunately, he received good advice from many helpful people, and purchased a 10" Dobsonian that provided a superb opportunity to enjoy amateur astronomy for the first time.

    Owning his first telescope was exciting, but he quickly ran into problems. First, Steve couldn't find anything except the moon. Thanks (again) to good advice, he solved that problem by using a Telrad finder, a low-power, wide-field eyepiece, and a Palm Pilot as a live map of the night sky. Although he still doesn't know many of the constellations, with this setup he feels like he can find almost anything without resorting to computer-guided scopes. Another problem was a severe case of aperture fever that struck one night when Steve looked through a 20" Obsession Dob at a club observing session. There was only one cure for this miserable affliction, so over the next year he built a 17.5" truss Dob in his basement. Despite making every mistake in the book, Steve was shocked to discover the thing actually worked. In addition, he also has a small 80mm refractor, which spends most of its time connected to an Halpha solar filter. Steve loves watching the changing face of the sun through H-alpha light. He also has a 6" Mak-Newt, which is used for Lunar and planetary photography. He's just beginning to dabble in astrophotography with a digital SLR camera, but he doesn't have much to show for it yet.

    Despite this experience, Steve still considers himself a beginner in astronomy. In real life, he's a professor of Pharmacology, and conducts laboratory research in drug abuse. He's been married for 29 years (his wife believes anyone that goes out to look at stars in the middle of the night belongs in a straightjacket), and they suffer the indignities of two teenage kids.

  • Paul Jones has degrees in chemistry from Oklahoma State University (1993) and Duke University (1998) and is currently an assistant professor of chemistry at Wake Forest University. Paul grew up under the dark skies of western Oklahoma and has been involved in amateur astronomy since 1983, when he attended a public observation in Tucson, Arizona that featured Comet IRAS-Araki-Alcock, Jupiter, and Saturn. Paul has authored several articles in amateur astronomy publications and designed and taught a workshop to introduce astronomy and astronomy activities to secondary school science teachers. Though he has longed to have an astrophoto published, it has turned out, inexplicably to him, that publishers prefer his writing (and even his sketching!) to his photography.