Hi, I'm Mark Johnston aka azastroguy.
I grew up in Toronto and moved to Scottsdale Arizona in 1990. That's the "AZ" in azastroguy.
When I was 11 years old I got a 60mm Tasco refractor for Christmas. I didn't know what I was doing, but stood in the snow in the backyard looking at stars. A particularly bright one caught my eye, and I focused my low power eyepiece on it. It was a yellow football shape. I knew it couldn't be a star, but what was it? I put in the only other eyepiece I had, a 'high power' one, and was stunned to see the planet Saturn revealed in all its ringed glory. I had 'discovered' Saturn! I was hooked.
For many decades I enjoyed astronomy as a personal pursuit, getting gradually better and better equipment. Eventually I discovered the joy of sharing the wonders of the universe with others and began doing outreach and education. In the late 1990's I began regularly showing the night sky at Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, and became the parks official astronomer. I was awarded Volunteer of the Year by the Mayor of Scottsdale in 2007. In 2015 I was certified to give presentations on astronomy and space science on cruise ships, and have enjoyed many such trips with my wife around the world. In 2018 I became a NASA Solar System Ambassador and in 2020 I was awarded Master Level outreach award by the Astronomical League. In 2020 I opened the @azastroguy Instagram account, and followed that in 2021 with a similar Facebook account.
Preparing for a night of observing under dark desert skies
iPhone 7 photo of the Rosette nebula through image intensifier
In 2017 I began experimenting with Night Vision astronomy, where you modify an image intensifier to replace the eyepiece of your telescope and magnify light 65,000x. Suddenly galaxies changed from gray smudges in the eyepiece to beautiful spiral armed wonders. This opened up many new objects to the public in my star parties and led me to iphone photography.
When Covid hit, I was searching for a way to safely continue outreach events. I discovered EAA (Electronically Assisted Astronomy) where I project an image from a camera on the telescope to a PC and then to a TV. The beauty of this method is the longer the image is viewed, the better the image appears as the signal to noise is improved. I was one of the first in Arizona to begin public EAA events. This in turn led me to more serious astrophotography.
iPhone photo of an EAA image of the Helix Nebula
Today I'm enjoying planetary, solar, lunar and deep space astrophotography. There is a ton to learn and it's an exciting journey.
Whirlpool Galaxy M51
Soul Nebula IC1848
C9.25 with Hyperstar
Today, after more than 50 years in astronomy, I'm still passionate about it and love sharing the night sky.
Resident Astronomer at the Four Seasons Resort, Scottsdale
If you're interested in astronomy there's a lot good stuff on this site you might find of interest:
Includes links to websites to get accurate astronomy forecasts, find dark observing sites, see real time images of the Sun and other cool stuff
I'm still a beginner but am off to a good start! I've classified all my images by object class.
This section lists all the upcoming public events where I'm speaking/presenting as well as links to educational articles I've published.
Say hello or ask me a question!