Maya Doka - Astronomer Profile
September 17, 2015
Today at AstronomyConnect we introduce the first of an ongoing series of profiles where individuals and astronomy associations share their passion for stargazing and their motivation for exploring the night sky.
The first profile is of long-time stargazer, artist, active AC member, and Agena Astroproducts customer Maya Doka (@Crow Haven), who observes from her personal Crow Haven Observatory in coastal Oregon. Maya says that stargazing is "in her blood", and she's continuously challenged to use her suite of telescopes to see more in the night sky, a place she calls her "playground".
1. How long have you been a stargazer, and what inspired you to get into stargazing?
My interest in astronomy, and science in general, caught hold very early in childhood while growing up in California in the 1960's. Like many others, probably, I'd spend hours admiring the stars and Moon from my backyard. The visual depth of space looked so incredible, even from my backyard then as a child, that gazing into it seemed like flying off into infinity. I dreamed of having a telescope to voyage through the stars with, but that would have to wait many years. I also enjoyed sci-fi stories, movies and television shows which inspired my imagination further.
2. We've heard you built your own observatory some time ago. Can you tell us more about it?
Now being permanently settled since my husband, Paul, retired from US Coast Guard aviation (he was an aviation electronics warrant officer), he completed a roll-off roof observatory for me in 2009-2010… the "Crow Haven Observatory." I have a long, well-illustrated thread topic on the Cloudy Nights Observatories forum detailing the entire process of building it. We do have plenty of crows and a pair of ravens living on our forested hilltop property - inspiration for the name of the observatory - along with lots of other wildlife. Paul has never been bitten by the astronomy bug, but he's been wonderful and supportive of me and my astronomy interest throughout the years.
3. What do you do in your non-astronomy life?
I have many other hobbies, and I enjoy doing artwork -- both painting traditionally on canvas and also in digital artwork forms.
4. Where do you do most of your observing?
These days from my observatory or sometimes just with quick setups from the porch or yard.
5. What’s your current equipment set-up?
At the observatory I primarily use a C-11 SCT on an Orion Atlas equatorial mount alongside a EON 120mm Apo refractor on a large pier-held CGEM mount. Depending on the plan of what will be observed that night and seeing conditions, I also have there a portable setup of an Orion Sky View Pro equatorial mount with a 180mm f/15 Orion Mak-Cass which I really enjoy for Moon and planetary visual and can move to better viewing of the southern direction on the property. I have some smaller refractors there as well, in the 80mm to 102mm category with altazimuth mounts for different types of views.
6. What’s your favorite book or guide?
The Night Sky Observer’s Guide volumes 1 and 2 by George Kepple and Robert Sanner get used a lot, as well as Charles Wood’s and John Moore's Moon books/atlas. But I have a lot of astronomy books and star charts I've collected over the years. I still enjoy the 3 volumes of Burnham's Celestial Handbook. Often I just grab the Sky & Telescope Pocket Star Atlas and the Objects In the Heavens guide by Peter Birren.
7. Are you mostly a visual observer, or an imager, or both?
8. What's your favorite type of object to observe/image?
I enjoy observing planetary, lunar, and DSOs. With DSOs I particularly enjoy open and globular star clusters and various nebulae.
9. How do you plan a night’s observing/imaging?
According to the objects of interest and their placement for viewing from my location site and times. There are tall Douglas Fir trees to work around. Sometimes I don't plan, I just go see what I may find -- just explore. I find it very relaxing and renewing.
10. What sights in the night sky do you still want to see, but haven’t seen yet?
I'm looking forward to the total solar eclipse August 21, 2017 from either Salem, Oregon, or the Eugene area.
11. What motivates you to go out with a telescope to see the stars night after night?
It's just in my blood. I always want to stargaze and see what's out there...it seems I always have… it's my playground.
12. What you wish you knew when you got started?
A great deal of the fun has been in learning new things all the time in this hobby, in the advances in equipment and techniques for observing, advances in our knowledge through astronomy. I wouldn't have wanted the experience to have proceeded other than how it has for me.
13. Can you share one of your best ever observing experiences?
My first telescope was a Super Polaris SCT C-8 I bought while living in Sacramento, California in 1984 (which I still have), and I enjoyed being a member of SVAS - the Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society. My first viewing of the incredible dark starry skies at Blue Canyon, where the club built an observatory at the small airfield there, was something I'll always remember -- I was lost among that sky peppered with bright stars! It was the most beautiful sight I've ever seen. I have a lot of fond memories of SVAS. I also joined the astro clubs ACAC (Ancient City Astronomy Club) while living in St. Augustine, Florida, and AAA (Amateur Astronomers Association of New York) in Staten Island, New York.
14. How has Agena helped you with your interest in astronomy?
Great products, reasonable prices, and wonderful service keeps me coming back over and over again. Agena has enhanced my observing experiences and made it possible to try equipment I might not otherwise have had exposure to, and always has the parts and information I need in making my choices. Thanks Agena Astro!
15. Do you have a website? Where can we learn more about you?
I don't have a website dedicated to astronomy, only a site with my paintings and artwork at www.crowhavenarts.com and www.mayadoka.com. My gallery pages, which have telescope equipment photos, are also on the Cloudy Nights forum of which I am the member known as Crow Haven.
This article is © AstronomyConnect 2015. All rights reserved. Images © Maya Doka 2015. All rights reserved.