My interest in Astronomy started at an early age, but it wasn't until 1999 that I became active in the hobby. When I was six years old, my family moved to the small town of Titusville, Florida. This town sits directly across the Indian River from Kennedy Space Center. It was there that a life long interest in space and space exploration began. A number of my friends' fathers were engineers on the Apollo program and it was through one of them that I got my first look through a telescope, a small refractor. I can still remember gazing into the little scope at a Scott fuzzy object whose name now escapes me. That night had an impact on me. But since then, many years passed in pursuit of career goals which put off my being active in astronomy until just a few years ago. I did get a chance to work on a project during my senior year at college associated with the International Space Station. That's about the last time I really used my degree in Mechanical Engineering . I spent the next 8 years flying various airplanes in the US Navy. I had been threatening to buy a telescope for a number of years when my wife bought me the Meade ETX-90 for Christmas in 1999. I think she now questions the wisdom of her purchase; she calls my hobby an obsession, the other woman, or even a sickness when I’m out at all hours of the night.

Currently, I own one telescope, an Astro-Physics AP160EDF apochromatic refractor. The AP160 is now used solely for imaging. It is installed in a friends remote observatory at Deerlick Astronomy Village. I now control the entire setup via the internet from over 250 miles away. Hats off to Chris Hetlage for his generosity allowing me to setup in his state of the art facility. My brother-in-law custom built a 10" pier for the observatory which provides a solid platform for imaging with the 6" refractor. The imaging platform is an Astro-Physics AP1200GTO German equatorial mount which tracks the stars with unbelievable precision. In July of 2008 I upgraded the camera to an Apogee U16M, with the Kodak 16803 chip. It produces square images with a raw file size of 32 megabites.

I sold a significant portion of my astro equipment in 2008 to facilitate the purchase of the Apogee U16M camera. I am currently designing a homemade reflector for visual observing, that should be finished in 2009. Mach 1

Astrophotography has also become a very serious part of this hobby. I really enjoy the challenge of producing the best astrophotographs that I can. It is very satisfying to get good results. I have discovered that post processing is at least 50 percent of astrophotography and is truly an art form all by itself. Having knowledge of Adobe Photoshop or other premier image editing tools is essential. Many astrophotographers have been extraordinarily helpful in this hobby, Bobby Middleton, Jim Janusz, John Mirtle, Chris Cook, John Boudreau, Tony Hallas, Ken Crawford and Chris Hetlage just to name a few. One of the great things about this hobby is the willingness of amateur astronomers to share their knowledge, successes and failures.

Some of the early photos taken with film are still on this web site, but I am now strictly using a CCD camera to capture images. I purchased a used SBIG ST10XME CCD camera in 2006 and it included a filter wheel with Astrodon filters, images from this camera are also shown on the gallery page. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of film imaging, but the instant feedback of digital imaging is very satisfying. The ability to take deep hydrogen alpha images in a light polluted neighborhood is a very nice feature of CCD imaging. However, imaging remotely has added an entirely new dimension to this hobby. Remote imaging allows me to image from anywhere in the world as long as I have internet access.

I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my passion with friends and family. However, the most rewarding thing has been combining my astronomy interest with classes on creation at my church. I am currently writing a short devotional book that includes many images from this site, you can see a few examples on the notes page. The book should be finished in late 2008. See the links page for more information on creation related material.

Scott Hammonds
An edited version of this article appeared in Amateur Astronomy issue #38 Summer 2003

By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; Proverbs 3:19 NIV