About Paul Beskeen

I live just outside the village of Bourn, near Cambridge in the UK, along with my wife Kristie and our two children, Riley and Webber. Most of the images that you can see on this website are taken from our back garden, though some are from northern Nevada in the USA where Kristie's parents live.

I'm a member of the team at eCosCentric, an embedded software company that focuses on the eCos open source real-time operating system. I was happy to learn that Vixen are using eCos as the operating system for their StarBook based Sphinx mounts. eCos has also been used as the OS for various space-based experiments, the most impressive of which being the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer - a particle detector mounted on the ISS.

Astrophotography Biography


As long as I can remember I have had been interested in the universe on our doorstep. One of my early memories is of being allowed to stay up and watch coverage of the first moon landing, which is a bit of a giveaway as to my age. Another memory from that time was hiding behind a sofa whenever the evil Dalek's appeared on the BBC SciFi programme "Dr Who". Space was exciting and scary! Now and again I would get a bit of practical knowledge by way of Patrick Moore on the Sky at Night programme. Fast forward to the 21st century... A new generation gets the chance to be amazed at humankind's continuing exploration of the universe, my children get the chance to be scared silly watching a newly regenerated Dr Who, and the stalwart Patrick Moore's still going strong. Le plus ca change... At least it's all in colour this time!

Count Down

My interest in unearthly things was pretty much confined to an on/off diet of SF novels, and a healthy background interest in science until around 1999, when I bought a small 90mm Meade ETX telescope. A good little scope, its goto capability helped familiarize me with the night sky, but other than the major planets most celestial objects appeared faint and fuzzy. I upgraded to a Meade 12" LX200 reflector. A big improvement, the fuzzies were brighter and more distinct, but still in essence, well, fuzzy... At this point that I realized that to get closer to the views of the universe that the Hubble generation are so familar with, I would have to abandon my inadequate eyeballs and take up astrophotography.

Lift Off

I intially focused on webcam-based imaging of the planets - which is a great way to understand how the atmospheric quality, or "seeing", changes on a day to day basis and learn how to optimize your telescope for high resolution imaging. You also get direct insight into the changing weather and seasons on other planets - for example watching mars' polar caps retreat during springtime and witnessing dust storms gradually enveloping its entire surface.

After playing with digital cameras of various kinds I bought a modfied Canon DSLR along with a 4" Borg refractor that I piggybacked on the LX200. Experiments automating the aquisition of images from the DSLR led to the widely used DSLR serial control standard. I later bought a Cannon 200mm F/1.8L lens off ebay all the way from Korea. A truely remarkable piece of glass - and bizarrely the must-have lens for Wedding photographers in Korea! I used this both piggybacked on the LX200 and on a small portable Takahashi EM10 mount. The 200mm/EM10 combination was used to image a large mosaic of the northern Cygnus region. I still use the EM10 with medium format lenses as my portable astrophotography rig - mostly for dark sky adventures in the Sierra Nevada and in the not so adventurous comfort of Kristie's parents back yard.

Orbital Insertion

At this stage I realized that my facination with astrophotography and astronomy was likely to be a life-long interest. I decided to dig-in. Rather than keep upgrading equipment piecemeal I invested in a good quality setup that I could hopefully use and amortize the cost of over several years. This led to the aquisition of a 400mm F3/F10 AstroOptik Cassegrain reflector, Paramount ME mount and a FLI Microline 16803 CCD camera. My good friend Tim Morley and I designed, and with help from my brother Michael, built a roll-off roof observatory that houses both of our astrophotography rigs. It's a somewhat idosyncratic, but practical design that has been irreverantly (but reasonably accurately) referred to as the telescope shed.

To Infinity and Beyond!

Astrophotography weaves together several strands of interest - the technical aspects related to equipment setup, optimization and image aquisition, the skills and asthetic sensibilities needed for image processing, and the deeper understanding gained from researching the objects and phenomena imaged. Its a challenging, demanding and sometimes frustrating hobby, but if you are a science and technology geek you may find a depth and facination to it that seduces and captivates.

Hopefully the images and text on the site pique your curiosity, tickle your imagination and inspire you learn more. We live in a beautiful and astonishing universe - don't forget to look up and wonder now and again.

  Site contents and all images are Copyright © Paul Beskeen