Gary Brown's Amateur Astronomy Website Jupiter

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Gary Brown Hi there! My name is Brown... Gary Brown -- Amateur Astronomer and Sky Observer Extraordinaire (aka: "Mosquito Bait"). :) I live in West Chicago, Illinois (33 miles West of downtown, light polluted Chicago) where I participate in the exciting hobby of Amateur Astronomy.

I've always possesed an EXTREME "thirst" for knowledge in the physical sciences (thanks to my loving parents and grade-school science teacher). So, it's no wonder that, as an adult, I've chosen hobbies and careers in: aviation, airplanes/rocketry, photography, ham radio, electronics, computers, science-fiction and so much more.

Thus, it was probably by fate that I stumbled across the South West Astronomy Observers Group in January 2002. Since then, I have started spending much of my time and "squandering" the family "fortune" (?) on my latest hobby and passion... Amateur Astronomy.

My Astronomy Equipment

  • TELESCOPE: Meade LX90 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (with #497 AutoStar Computer & Field Tripod)
  • CCD IMAGERS: SAC-7b Peltier Cooled 24-bit Color CCD Imager & QuickCam 2 Color CCD Camera
  • STILL CAMERAS: Canon EOS 35mm Film & Sony Mavica FD-88 Digital
  • COMPUTER: Compaq LTE-5200 Notebook (for CCD Imaging & Satellite Tracking)
  • SOFTWARE: Nova for Windows v2.1q (Object/Satellite Tracking), AstroStack (Digital Imaging), Planetarium & PocketSat (Object/Satellite Tracking on the Palm Pilot)
  • BINOCULARS: Bushnell 16x50 & Simmons 8x25 Compact
  • INTERESTS: Galaxies, Planets, Nebulae, Asteroids, Comets, Satellites & Astrophotography
Meade LX90 Telescope

My Astronomy Tips

While I've only just started seriously in Astronomy back in March 2002, I've already learned several valuable lessons...


  • Get a star chart or skymap to learn your way around the heavens (see my links below for a FREE monthly skymap)
  • A good pair of binoculars should be your first investment in Astronomy (you'll get the most use out of these)
  • Join a local Astronomy club -- you'll have plenty of opportunities to learn, ask questions and see a variety of equipment
  • Avoid cheap telescopes and binoculars -- you get what you pay for (look for good used optics on eBay if you can't afford new)
  • When shopping for a telescope, "GO TO" computers are *VERY* nice (but not required) and DO NOT purchase anything without at least "clock drive" tracking (otherwise you'll be forced to manually and franticly track objects across the sky)
  • WARNING: After you buy a new telescope or pair of binoculars it is more likely to rain or be overcast for several nights (grin)
  • In preparation of observing, be sure to allow your eyes at least 10 minutes to adjust to the dark of night prior to viewing anything
  • Similarly, when you operate a telescope, let it "cool down" to the ambient air temprature at least 30 minutes prior to viewing anything
  • When observing, remember to compensate for the "blind spot" of your eye's "night vision" -- look slightly off-center of the object you are viewing
  • In order to preserve your eye's "night vision" while observing, avoid looking at bright lights (headlights, flashlights and even the Moon) and use dimly illuminated red flashlights if you need to read star charts or operating manuals
  • Lastly, have fun and share the hobby with your family and friends (the wife just might forgive your purchases and you begin to sound like a scholar to your friends)
Also, here are several live, up-to-the-minute images (sky conditions and weather radar) that I've also found particularly useful for evaluating astronomical observation conditions throughout Chicagoland...
Clear Sky Clock
Weather Radar
Auroral Activity

My Amateur Astrophotography

I've only just begun in Astronomy... let alone Astrophotography. Hence, I've only taken only a dozen (or so) digital astronomical photos and half as many on 35mm film. Not surprisingly, my first attempts have yielded some very unimpressive results. Never-the-less, I'm posting what few photos I have taken for you to enjoy (or at least learn from my mistakes). (grin) If you have any questioins, please contact me.

My VERY Amateur Astronomy Photographs

Lunar Eclipse (2003) Moon (2001)
Jupiter and Moons (2003) Jupiter Bands (2003)
Sun The sun... very much out-of-focus. This was my first astrophotograph. Taken with a Meade ETX-125EC, solar filter, Canon Rebel EOS 35mm camera and Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 35mm 800-speed color film.
Satrun Saturn... very much out-of-focus and over-exposed. Did I mention that these were just my first astronomical photography attempts? (grin) Taken with a Meade ETX-125EC, Canon Rebel EOS 35mm camera and Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 35mm 800-speed color film.

Learning Astronomy

Here is one of the most entertaining, clear, accurate and enlightening educational television series called "The Really Big World of Astronomy" that my Tivo Satellite Digital Video Recorder captured from Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). This series is suitable for older children and amateur astronomers alike -- covering everything from the origins of astronomy to advanced study of celestial objects, radio, light and orbital theory.

The Really Big World of Astronomy
(in Windows Media Player 56k Streaming Video Format)

Program Highlights Size
The Really Big World of Astronomy - Program 1 The Begginings of Astronomy (Plato, Ptolemy, Capernicus, Kepler) and Basic Astronomy Terminology 6.7 MB
The Really Big World of Astronomy - Program 2 The Giants of Astronomy (Kepler, Galileo & Newton) and Gravity 6.7 MB

South West Astronomer's Observing Group (SWAOG)

As a licensed Ham Radio Operator, I participate in a local astronomy group called the South West Astronomers Observing Group (SWAOG) who share the wonderful hobby of Astronomy via Ham Radio.

SWAOG Observing Session SWAOG conducts an Astronomy Network Thursday evenings at 8:30 PM CT on the Dupage Amateur Radio Club 145.430 MHz Repeater (-600 KHz Input & 107.2 Hz PL) in Downers Grove, Illinois. Everyone is welcome -- whether you're a licensed Ham or just listening on a radio scanner. Astrnomers (amateurs, professional and "wannabees") will discover this to be one of the most informative, educational and (more importantly) fun ways to participate in the exciting hobby of Astronomy.

Because the network is so useful, I try to record it each week in MP3 audio format (for those that are unable to participate or simply miss it). Below are the archived recordings (updated weekly). Enjoy!

By-the-way, if you're just listening to the Astronomy Net via a scanner or over the Internet and would like to "check-in" to let us know that you've been listening or if you have a question, please send us an email to: or join the SWAOG Yahoo Group for email, files, photos and live chat -- we'd LOVE to hear from you!

Yahoo Group

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SWAOG Amateur Astronomy Network Recordings

RSS XML FeedThe SWAOG Amateur Astronomy Network recording are also available via Podcast for automatic download to your portable media device. Click the XML/RSS icon or manually add this URL to your Podcast Aggregating Software:
MP3 Recording Filename Date
SWAOG Astronomy Network (2010-03-18).mp3 <- Click to play or download 03/18/10
SWAOG Astronomy Network (2010-03-11).mp3 <- Click to play or download 03/11/10

My Favorite Astronomy Links

  • - features an incredible downloadable sky map (in PDF format) for each month of the year
  • Heavens Above - the best site for quick and easy satellite tracking and sky charts
  • CalSky - another great site that produces a customized and detailed calendar of celestial objects/events for your location
  • Northern Lights Software Association - featuring several software packages for satellite and space tracking (my favorite: "Nova for Windows" which displays satellite/object tracking information and controls telescopes and antenna arrays)

Contact Me

Andromeda Galaxy If you have questions, comments or to just want to say "hi", please feel free to email me at or instant message me (using the links below). Clear skies!

Gary Brown (KC4VNU)
1879 N. Neltnor Blvd.
West Chicago, Illinois 60185
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