How did you become interested in astronomy, and how long have you been actively observing?
My interest in Astronomy started when I was child, asking my grandfather questions about the stars and observing through his binoculars and his refractor telescope. About 9 years ago, with my wife's encouragement, I decided to take a deeper dive and purchased my first (of many) Orion telescope - a 6" Newtonian reflector. Shortly after that, I joined the San Mateo County Astronomical Society and started going regularly to star parties. The views of planets, nebulae and galaxies and learning about all the objects I have viewed got me hooked, and I have been actively observing ever since and started in astrophotography in 2008. It is such a great hobby: always new things to learn, great things to see and lots of very cool toys!
What is your favorite type of celestial object to view? (or in your case, shoot)
I enjoy viewing a wide range of objects, especially those that push the envelope in terms of scope performance and straining the eyes. But if I had to pick one object only, it would be planetary nebulae - these dying embers of sun-like stars are fascinating to view, especially when you read up on the physics that drive the inner workings of a star, and it is a great object to show and talk about in star parties.
Share one of your most interesting viewing experiences?
There are a couple of experiences that pop into mind: during the first 3-4 years, I used an Orion 6" scope that was not a go-to scope, which means that finding objects required fine polar alignment and manually using setting circles. During one such observing session, I was looking for M17 (an emission nebula), and since my alignment was less than perfect, I had to slowly search around manually for it. As I was panning across a rich star field, slowly this ghostly object came into view - it was M17. It is hard to explain the sense of excitement and accomplishment that I felt the first time I saw it, it was as if I had just discovered it myself. The second experience was while I was observing Jupiter with my Orion 10" Atlas scope; during the session, I noticed a bright point of light emerging from behind the planet - only after a few minutes I realized I was watching one of Jupiter's moons (Io) and then it hit me that I was witnessing a moon rise over another planet that was not Earth. It was a moment that stays with me to this day.
On a given night, how do you decide what to observe?
I use Starry Night to see what object will be visible that night and I then search online to see if there are any special events or objects that are noteworthy. I like preparing a mix of objects that will include some good old easy favorites that never fail to please and some challenging objects (comets, faint nebulae or faint galaxies) which helps keep the session challenging.
Do you normally plan ahead or just view whatever you can find?
As described above I usually do plan a mixed list of objects. However, it is a flexible list and at star parties other people share what they are viewing and so I may add an item or two from their list into mine.
Chanan with some more of his Orion Equipment
Click image to view Chanan's Messier Poster in full resolution.
Messier 33 taken by Chanan on October 18th, 2012.
Are there any Orion accessories or equipment you use regularly?
I was one of the first to purchase Orion's 12" go-to tracking Dobsonian scope, and it is by far my favorite scope for observations - the best star party machine ever made. This has relegated my 10" Orion Atlas to field imaging and 8" Orion Newtonian for solar viewing. I also like using my Orion 80mm APO for imaging, as well for wide field imaging. My other favorite accessories are the Orion Stratus eyepieces that produce great views with convenient wide lenses.
What advice would you give to aspiring stargazers?
If you are interested in astronomy - you are already 50% of the way there. To make this interest last a long time, start simple and go to star parties. Some people buy the biggest flashiest thing they can afford only to get frustrated by the learning curve. The best telescope you could ever buy is the one you will use; use it long enough and your appetite will grow and you will get your next. So start simple, have fun, join an astronomy club with people who share your interest and can ease you into the hobby. Also, read! The more you learn about what you can observe the more amazing this hobby will become.
Chanan has written an informative article called Amateur Astrophotography which you can download here. File size: 4.2 MB
You can view more astro images Chanan captured with his Orion Deep Space Pro CCD Camera on his website: www.greenhawkobservatory.com.