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About Me

My amateur astronomy "career" began at age 19 when I met a fellow student at the University of Oklahoma who was building a telescope from scratch.  He was grinding an 8-inch mirror in his home in Norman, Oklahoma.  I caught the bug and ordered a 6-inch kit from Edmund Scientific.  It took a while, but I finished that mirror and subsequently another 6-in and a 12.5 in.

I sort of wandered in the dark until I started work at the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in St. Louis in late 1965 where I found the McDonnell Amateur Astronomers Club (since evolved into the Boeing Amateur Astronomers Club).  There I learned more and more astronomy, worked on those other telescopes mentioned above, participated in club meetings, served as various officers, etc.  I have been an off and on member of the St. Louis Astronomical Society over the years (much more steady lately).

I've traveled to four total eclipses of the Sun (1972 in Nova Scotia, 1973 off the coast of Africa, 1979 near Winnepeg, Cananda and 2004 off the coast of Turkey).  I've completed several of the observing programs of the Astronomical League and served at the Chairperson for the Mid-States Region of the League three time (plus the current Chair position).

In 1995, my wife Yvonne and I took on a missionary assignment in Oaxaca, Mexico where I found my nights free and virtually cloud-free.  I had been intrigued by the advent of CCD cameras and managed to find in the budget money for an SBIG ST-7.  Of course, my existing telescopes were inadequate so that started a tracking telescope acquisition program that lea to an 8-inch Meade, followed by a 10-in Meade LX-200 and (now) a 14-inch Celestron.

In Mexico, I discovered the joy of searching for and finding asteroids with this equipment.  This was in the days before the "machines" monopolized the discovery of new asteroids but from January 1998 through parts of 2003, I discovered 102 asteroids from my little observatory in Oaxaca, Mexico.  The first one I got numbered I named "Oaxaca" in honor of the state and city of discovery.  Since then, I have named nine more including rubyroe, yvonneroe, robertcox, dobson, pulgaril, melbartels, sooner.

Since leaving Mexico asteroid observing is much more difficult and I have switched to variable star observing using my 10-inch (since retired), the 12-inch and the 32-inch AfA telescope.  In 2008 I submitted some 25,000 high quality measurements to the International DataBase of the ASVSO.  I've also measured many transiting exo-planets.

Also, since leaving Mexico, I've founded the Alliance for Astronomy, Inc. which is a Missouri non-profit corporation with the mission of promoting education, awareness and appreciation of astronomy and related sciences.  In February 2005, the AfA founded the Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri as its chief outreach activity.

This is me with the 32-inch reflector owned by the Alliance for Astronomy.  I have put a lot of time into getting this scope in first-class condition (and there is still a way to go!).  The telescope was designed and built by Al Kelly and Andy Saulitis and used in Texas.  The Alliance was able to buy the telescope with the proceeds of a cash grant from the Boeing Employees Community Fund of St. Louis. 

In the form we took delivery of the scope it had a friction drive with tracking motors (steppers) and electric clutches.  The scope had to be pushed to a target (with the clutches released), then the clutches would be engaged and it would track well enough for visual use and short exposures.  But I wanted it to be a "Go-To" telescope.

To that end, I installed a servomotor system from Sidereal Technology, Inc.  Two servo motors replaced the stepper motors simply and the controller provides the management of them.  Subsequent changes have been to eliminate one stage of the friction drive with a toothed belt drive and an additional 5:1 step down coupling using a toothed belt drive for that too.

There is still slippage in the main friction drives which makes it impossible to achieve a truly valid mount model and to be able to track for more than 20 seconds or so in long exposures.  I have plans to add direct drive to both axes - again with toothed belts and to add high resolution encoders on the telescope axes to get greater precision in pointing and tracking.

Nevertheless, the telescope is capable of pointing within 10s of arc minutes anywhere in the sky.  A quick calibration exposure is analyzed using the program Elbrus, the scope is updated to its true position and a subsequent slew usually lands the target right near the center of the FOV (using an SBIG STL-1001 camera with 23.5x23.5 arc min FOV). 

Recent additions

  • Venus Transit 2012 My "new" solar scope featuring my old (very) 3-in refractor outfitted with a Sun Funnel acquitted itself well during the transit of Venus across the Sun on June 5 ...
    Posted Jun 6, 2012, 1:15 PM by James Roe
  • New Sun Scope from Old I bought my first telescope in 1964 - a three-inch f/15 refractor from Edmund Scientific for $125.  I used it until I was able to afford bigger and bigger ...
    Posted May 9, 2012, 2:38 PM by James Roe
  • New observatory in Bourbon, Missouri A large part of the motivation to move to a 4.5 acre site near Bourbon, Missouri was to create and have my personal observatory in my back yard for ...
    Posted May 9, 2012, 3:28 PM by James Roe
  • Bahtinov Focusing Mask Focusing a telescope when trying to image the Moon and/or planets can be difficult.  The Bahtinov mask is a funny looking device that makes the task more objective than ...
    Posted Aug 13, 2010, 11:18 AM by James Roe
  • Musings on Barlow Lenses and How to Use Them Barlow lenses are common "tools" in the amateur kit, used to increase the magnification of regular eyepieces.  The theory is relatively simple but the practical uses are sometimes not what ...
    Posted Jun 24, 2010, 9:55 AM by James Roe
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