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Michael Swartz
Astronomy Hobby Memories

My cousin Jim Everitt Jim Everitt and his telescope waiting for darkness at Fremont Peak.
In November 2001, just after my father had passed, my cousin Jim Everitt invited my family and me to come join him to enjoy the annual Leonids meteor shower at Henry Coe Park in Morgan Hill, CA.  I saw a display of the most amazing astronomy gear I had ever seen.  There were telescopes large and small.  And the things we could see just took my breath away.  We saw Saturn, Jupiter, bright nebulas, shining star clusters, really faint fuzzy things he said were distant galaxies.  It was like candy to my eyes. And then came the meteor shower, streak after streak of beautiful burning remnants of comet trails that were greeted enthusiastically by cheers and applause from the crowd that had gathered to watch.

I knew then that this was something I just had to do. He is soley responsible for me beginning the journey of astronomy.   It is the adventure of a lifetime and now I get to share it with my kids.
      Thanks Jim!
My very first telescope was a Celestron Nexstar 11GPS.  It was a wonderful first scope.  It had plenty of aperture, goto, tracking, and it helped me learn the sky and see many beautiful things that would become like old friends.
I was out one night in the cold winter of 2002 with my new telescope getting ready to look at Saturn and the moon.   There were clouds that night so we didn't see much.  It was still fun being out in the night with friends.
My first experience with solar viewing involved putting a full aperture Type 2+ glass filter over the front of my Celestron Nexstar 11GPS telescope and looking at sunspots.  That was pretty interesting.  I then bought a Coronado SolarMax-60 h-alpha telescope and really saw the sun. Wow!  I was in trouble now,  I was hooked!  I had to have more!  

And so the journey continued...
Then it happened... I decided to go large.  I had to have a bigger scope than just 11 inches.  So, I sold it and ordered an 18" reflector.  And while I was waiting I bought this nice Televue NP101 refractor.  Here is my brother Dave enjoying the sun.
This was my first entry in to the world of big glass.  It was an Obsession 18" F4.5 telescope.  I put an optical finder scope, a Telrad finder, counter weights, it had handles that separated, etc.  It stood about 6.6ft tall.  I bought a special 4x6ft trailer to carry it around which I named my "astro-trailer".  It was a wonderful scope.  I enjoyed it many dark nights.
The clarity and contrast of the  Televue NP-101were great.  But Coronado had a set of filters that were specially designed for the small Takahashi Sky-90  refractor so I sold the NP-101.

When I bought the Takahashi Sky-90 refractor I had it sent from Texas Nautical directly to Coronado in Arizona where they custom matched an external 90mm filter to a specially designed 40mm filter that threaded into the focusing tube.  That was followed by a BF-30 blocking filter, a zero-length 2"-1.25" adapter, and a specially coated diagonal.  I then used a Denkmeier binoviewer and Televue 24mm Panoptic eyepieces.  This combination produced amazing views.  The sun was big, bright and the detail was just breathtaking.  

I spent many nights with my friends and son with this Obsession 18 enjoying the sky.  It offered amazing views of deep space bringing those faint far away nebula and galaxies into view.  The planets were just incredible.  Here is Gary Gechlik having a look.

I was adjusting my Televue NP-101 on a cold winter night up at
the Monte Bello OSP park.
I made these solar filters for my  binoculars.  I made them from Baader film and black polymer.
Bobby Lee was a frequent observing friend with his Meede 12" telescope and friendly smile. John Antoniou and I were enjoying some solar viewing outside of Togos one sunny day.

I really loved my Obsession telescope but I really wanted goto and tracking so that when I was showing the sky to others I could find and follow things easily.

So here I am at the ranch of Michelle Stone picking up my brand new 18" F4.2 Plettstone telescope that she built for me - with goto and tracking!

Now that is a light bucket!

Michelle making final adjustments.
My son Michael Swartz Jr and
I love daddy's new telescope.  

Doing a starparty at Ardenwood
park on a cold winter night.

The Swartz family in our space at the 2004 Shingletown Starparty

A group picture at the end of  the Shingletown Starparty, 2004.

My daughter Brianna took her first steps at the Shingletown starparty trying to capture my name badge.

One of the daytime activities of the Shingletown starparty was a tour of a local radio telescope array.

My daughter and me waiting for the sky to get dark at Shingletown

"I love astronomy!"

Michael Jr doing solar viewing at the Shingletown starparty 2004.

My cousin Jim Everitt giving me his analysis of some solar activity
While living in an apartment we didn't have a garage so I rented a stoarge unit that served as our garage.  I had a small 4x6' trailer in which all my astronomy gear was stored.  I would just tow it out, enjoy the sky, then pack up and tow the trailer back, and store it here where it sat ready for the next night out at a starparty.
My Astro-Trailer resting in our storage unit sitting ready for fun!

Nice telescope Bob!
My friend and fellow solar observer Bob Hess rigged up a very clever solar viewing telescope.  He fashioned a rack with a mirror, a solar etalon supported by a chain adjustable rail that sat on two camera tripods.  He even had a small shade for the observers head and it all fit in a wire milk carton case.  Nice!

Bob Hess explaining some solar activity to someone in Santa Cruz.

Bob enjoying the sun

Michael Jr and me at ScopeCity picking up some new astro-gear.

And now he is big enough to have
his own 10" dobsonian telescope.

Here is Michael Jr with his new telescope on our first night out with it. It was a little windy that night but he had a good time anyway.

Jim Everitt with his Obsession 15" telescope at Shingletown getting ready for a night of observing, hot tea and good times with friends.

My family at Calstar 2011 at the south shore of San Antonio Lake

My kids helping make breakfast at the outdoor kitchen of Chez Dan!

My friend JT taking a picture of something at Monte Bello OSP

Aiming my telescope at something up at Monte Bello, Summer 2011

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