To see heaven one day

An astronomer-amateur from Grodno, Andrey Prokopovich, built an observatory in his country house and still hopes to open a supernova
An astronomer-amateur from Grodno, Andrey Prokopovich, built an observatory in his country house and still hopes to open a supernova.

At the distance of luck. Photos of distant, unexplored, mysterious galaxies are whizzing by on the computer screen.

“I can take photos of almost 50 “small” galaxies at a cloudless summer night,” says absorbedly an astrophotographer-amateur Andrey Prokopovich, a doctor by profession. “After you have a few lists of photos, a special computer program helps to define whether a supernova appeared on the observable part of the sky. Theses are not only automatic stations that open stars but astronomers-amateurs too…”

We can only guess how much patience one shall have. Quite a lot of astronomers-amateurs in the world chase for stars and Belarusian ones are not the exception. There is one man in Grodno with such an unusual hobby who has his own observatory. However, Andrey Prokopovich doesn’t consider himself a copypheus. He names with respect people engaged in astronomy and well-known in certain circles such as Ivan Briukhanov from Minsk, Vitaly Nevsky from Vitebsk, Sergey Shurpakov from Baran, a native of Grodno, Oleg Chekalin from Moskow and others.

Unfortunately, Belarusians didn’t manage to open a supernova. Once Andrey was very close to it. At that night when his photocamera was exploring a part of the sky, at the other end of the world an American astronomer-amateur was keeping the same distant galaxy under observation. He was luckier...

Family budget for a telescope. Andrey Prokopovich started such an unusual interest being in the sixth form when his parents presented him with a telescope. Then a curious boy saw the starry arch from another special angle. He wanted to know which space objects he can see through his telescope.

Andrey was also fascinated by design engineering. In 1989, when he was 13, he assembled a computer. It was an important event for the school. Andrey felt that observation of the starry heaven doesn’t mean real knowledge of space. After he had read the book “Telescopes for astronomy amateurs” he wanted to improve his telescope. However, studies at a medical institute took his time.

He returned to the “heaven” by chance. When he and his wife were working at a computer, they found out from one of the Web-sites that telescopes can be bought in the Russian capital. An idea flashed across his mind. A young couple decided to spend almost all their savings on a real telescope. Andrey started for Moscow to get a precious purchase.

The picture of the starry heaven that he saw through a telescope with the main reflector diameter of 200 mm was different from that he used to observe through a small telescope when he was a boy. Soon he wanted to observe not only the starry heaven. Andrey was seriously fascinated by photographing. He got into touch with like-minded people from different countries of the world through the Internet. A trip to Germany helped him to realize the idea of equipping a telescope designed for observation of deep-space objects with a camera, thanks to which it is possible to take photos of distant galaxies. Afterwards he wrote a computer program in order to automatize the process of supernova search. The cherished dream came true: Andrey established his observatory. Soon a young family of the Prokopovichs with a three-year old daughter Nika moved to their country house for a warm season of the year. The stars are closer there.

“I will share the heaven with you...” Probably, Andrey Prokopovich would have lost himself if he stopped at what had been accomplished. Penetrating into the secrets of astronomy, communicating with alike fascinated people, he felt that he couldn’t conceal the acquired knowledge. Being a father, he realized that it is useful to carry away children with such interesting science as astronomy.

Moreover, an opportunity to implement the idea soon presented itself: at the initiative of the International Astronomical Union, the UNO announced this year the International Year of Astronomy. 400 years ago Galilee was the first to use a telescope, the device which laid foundation to a period of wonderful astronomic discoveries. In honor of this event telescopes will be installed on April 2–5 in different cities of the world through which people of our planet will be able to observe space objects. When Andrey Prokopovich knew this, he turned on the heat to include Grodno into the list of these cities. He is also ready to provide his own telescope for Grodno citizens.
In fact, everything depends on whether the astronomer-amateur’s initiative will be supported by the city authorities.

Perhaps, this will be the first step for establishment of an observatory in the city on the Neman and somebody will see the light of a distant star...

Different explorers defined that tens or even hundreds of new starts flare up in our star system annually. Properly speaking, these are flares of stars shining as our Sun but hotter and white ones. A distant imperceptible star flares up and its splash increases by tens of thousand times. It becomes brighter than the Sun by approximately the same amount of light. These stars were called new in former times when people thought that they didn’t exist. During two or three weeks after the splash stellar brightness increases, comes through a short maximum and decreases in several weeks with the same tempo.

Elena Semenova
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