About Bob (me)
Rocky Mountain Star Stare 1998
- History (I know I'm feeling older when I speak of my past as 'history')
I've been observing, photographing, and tinkering with astronomy since high school, after constant visits to the school library to dream over copies of Sky & Telescope magazine. I purchased my second telescope (the first was a Gilbert refractor...), a Celestron C8, from Texas Nautical, just prior to the unexpected arrival of Comet West (Comet West was something of a sleeper, since the media had become too cautious after their overestimation of Comet Kohoutek). The skies near Houston, Texas were murky and light polluted, but as it turns out, I only found out later how spoiled I was by the thick, steady air.
Astrophotography has always been one of my primary interests, having dabbled in many aspects of techniques and hardware. While in college, I built a solid plug cold camera (which worked, but was a royal pain to use). My parents gave me strange looks as I dragged a large CO2 cylinder (for making dry ice snow) along with my C8 gear on a family vacation to Colorado, but they were getting used to my strange 'habits'. Thank goodness for gas hypering...
After college, my love of this hobby drew me to Tucson, Arizona (dark skies and telescopes, here I come). I upgraded to a C11 (purchased from Leo Henzl in Prescott - thats a test for old-timers), then to a C14, and had some fabulous views and photographic images from both the desert and surrounding mountains (Mt Graham, pre-observatory). A Byers 812 (and my eyes) took care of tracking duties. Wallis and Provin became my heroes...
I now live in Greeley, Colorado, where I've found the perfect combination of nearby dark skies and tall mountains (skiing!). Unfortunately, this comes at a cost - the seeing here is typically poor and catching good nights takes diligence and some luck (which is where the new observatory comes in).
With the advent of the internet and online trading (Astromart, etc), I have been able to try out dozens of telescopes and too many eyepieces to mention. Its allowed me to hone in on what really works for me, and satisfy my love of astro equipment.
Cold winter nights also give me lots of time to indulge in the ATM aspect of this hobby. As a mechanical engineer and home shop machinist, I've found a real connection with the optics and mechanics of telescopes. I've designed and made numerous accessories, widgets, and rebuilt telescopes. I've also come to understand and appreciate how important optical quality is to visual performance. That, plus the rapidly changing temps here in Colorado has led me to settle on refractors for the bulk of my back-yard viewing.
I'm about evenly split (time-wise) between visual and photographic interests. Over the past few years I have really enjoyed taking some medium format images (6x7) through an Astro Physics 155EDF. A modified Losmandy GM200 provided a super-accurate, stable tracking platform.
My visual reach took a huge jump a few years ago, with the purchase of a used Obsession 25. What can I say, but Wow. My first views through this scope from a dark mountain site are still burned into my memory. I try not to miss a summer new moon, and often take the scope to the local mountain star parties.
I've come to really appreciate the performance that a high quality refractor can deliver. Given the seeing conditions here, and constantly falling temps, large refractors have delivered the most consistent planetary views, usually beating larger high quality Newtonians and Mak variants. However, the most fantastic planetary viewing I've had has been in rare instances with my Obsession, from the summer location shown in the image above - on a leading ridge in the Northern Colorado Rockies at 10,300 feet.
I have to admit to growing a bit less anxious to pile all the astrophoto gear into my truck lately, so my equipment needs have changed. Here's where the Observatory comes in. For equipment, I've settled on an AP 1200GTO and I managed to recently replace my 155EDF with a used 180EDT (a fantastic scope that is fantastically hard to find). For my environment, I think this is likely to be the perfect combination of large aperture unobstructed optics and thermal performance. A CCD camera is next...
All Content Copyright ©2001, Bob Luffel. All Rights Reserved.
The information on this site is intended for personal use, and no information may be used, in whole or in part, for commercial purposes without the express written consent of the copyright holder.