We Live in Exciting Times

I have been looking at the moon since 1968 when I acquired a humble childhood refractor made by Prinz. It was a 30-mm aperture instrument with a 10-30x zoom feature. I still have that telescope today and it still works well. Over the years I acquired bigger and bigger instruments and tried some lunar and planetary photography. But I could always see far more visually than I could photograph because the eye and brain are a remarkable combination and far superior to photographic film, at least for studying the moon and planets. In 1985 I caused much excitement at BAA (British Astronomical Association) Lunar Section meetings when I showed some videotapes I had taken with an experimental English Electric Valve CCD camera I had used to videotape the moon. Here was a quantum leap in imaging: something that could rapidly study the lunar surface and record details as well as the eye, at least on the bright, high-contrast moon. However, as the 21st century dawned, even newer technology came to the fore. It was awesome in its power, but affordable too: surely, a unique combination for amateur astronomy. The technology was the humble USB webcam, combined with an incredible software package called Registax, developed by Cor Berrevoets. The technical combination of a webcam with image stacking and processing tools, controlled by a modern PC is truly staggering. Any amateur can now take back-garden planetary images that reveal more than the human eye and would have been the envy of professional observatories only 10 years ago. I cannot remember a more exciting time to be in amateur astronomy. I hope this book may inspire a few more imagers to emerge and help breed the next generation of lunar and planetary imagers. It is now possible for anyone with a modest backyard telescope to capture stunning images and contribute real scientific observations. If this book helps produce just one keen planetary imager, I will feel it has been worth it.

Martin Mobberley Suffolk, United Kingdom December 2005

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