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The Artist---Mark Killion

Killion is a retired structural engineering consultant and his specialty was the design of the form-work equipment used to construct very large smoke stacks and hyperbolic cooling towers. He invented two unique forming systems which construct the worlds' largest stacks and towers and both systems are patented. Since recently retiring from the engineering arena, he now has the time to devote his energy to a life-long passion.

That passion has been astronomy and it started when he was very young. His parents encouraged him, at a very young age, to pursue this amazing journey through the stars and today he is still on that journey.

In 1990, he purchased a very nice refracting telescope and was content in using it to view celestial objects. It was two years later that he decided to try his hand at taking photos through this scope. It was a much more daunting endeavor than he realized, and he states that he probably made every mistake in the book. Finally, after much studying and practice, he was able to achieve some moderate successes. With each success, he was compelled to try to improve.


Killion's mosaic photo of the 1994 annular solar eclipse, shown in the header above, was awarded the best photo of the eclipse by Astronomy magazine and was also used by comet discoverer David Levy in one of Levy's Star Trails articles in Sky & Telescope magazine. His photo of the Perseus Double Cluster was heralded as one of the best "film" photos ever taken of that cluster and adorned the inside cover of the February 1995 edition of Astronomy magazine and also appeared in astronomy textbooks. In 2003, this same star cluster image was used in a special Astronomy magazine issue honoring the 200 most stunning images ever taken of our night sky. Killion was also honored by renowned professor of astronomy James B. Kaler of the University of Illinois who used several of Killion's photographs on his website "Skylights" and in some of the books that Kaler authored.

Since 2019, Killion has entered the amateur's Night Photography category of the Fine Art Photography Awards FAPA competition and was a nominee in 2019, 2020, 2022 and placed 3rd in 2021. 

The Great Planetary Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurred in December of 2020. Killion recorded that event and his image was chosen by Sky & Telescope's staff to appear in their April 2021 issue of the magazine. They referred to the image as a stunning composite of the event. In November of 2021, Killion captured an image of the partial Lunar Eclipse and the Pleiades which Sky & Telescope also used in their March 2022 issue. Another two-page of Killion's image of the Soul Nebula was used in the March 2023 issue of Sky & Telescope.

However, Killion's career in engineering took most of his time and thus his astrophotography took a back seat. In fact, his scopes remained idle for many years and only in the latter part of 2017 has he had the time to get them out again to enjoy this wonderful venture.

Killion's digital gallery images (with the exception of some solar system objects) were all taken relatively recently.  He states that he had some large prints made of these images and they do seem to "pop" off the wall. So, he chose a website name of and the pop not only stands for the way the images project from a wall but also for his company name Pictures on the Prairie.

On 11/19/20, Killion appeared on CILiving WCIA (Champaign, IL) discussing his astrophotography passion with storyteller Erin Valle.

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