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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Astrophotography

I’ve been interested in astronomy since I first tried to see Comet West in 1976. Lacking any experience, I got up early one clear morning to see the comet. I borrowed a pair of binoculars from my Dad. I stood shivering as I pointed the binoculars to what I had thought was the comet. After about 30 minutes of observing, I found out the object I was staring at was a reflection from a telephone wire…good grief. The light of the morning sky was too bright to observe anything else. I gave up and prepared to go to school. That night I read in the newspaper that the comet was located in the opposite direction I had been looking. Boy, did I feel dumb. The next morning I got up early to witness a spectacular sight. No binoculars were needed as Comet West hung in the sky and was about an inch long. The head of the comet was pointed towards the horizon as its long tail reflected the light from the sun. I watched in amazement until the sun brightened the sky and the comet faded from view. My interest in astronomy never faded.








It wasn’t until recent that I was able to buy a telescope. Actually, it was Erika that encouraged me to finally make that dream a reality. She always encourages me to make my dreams come true, but she always asks me to find out how by myself…like enjoying the telescope, but try not to use any money from our account (ha, ha, she is smart!) We knew that we were going to move to a very dark location in the Japan countryside. Since I was still working, I could purchase the scope now and ship it to Japan after I worked all the bugs out. Believe me, there were a lot of bugs to work out. Living in Seattle didn’t help. I had been waiting six weeks for a clear night to bring the scope out. I’m still waiting and waiting. The best part about waiting is that it gives me time to research various parts and techniques that are required to take beautiful photographs of the night sky. The first thing that I learned was that there was a very steep learning curve that was required. I had a long climb ahead of me. The second thing I learned was that the hobby called, “astrophotography” could get expensive. Thank goodness for Craigslist and Ebay. Without those web sites I could have never funded this adventure. I had made a promise to myself…I wouldn’t purchase anything unless I sold something to fund it. I sold a bicycle, cameras, pool cue, bicycle equipments, even baseball cards. I managed to raise around $5K. Erika just shook her head and wondered what in the world was so interesting about stars? Why not just look at the photos in a magazine or a book? It’s the same, isn’t it? The best answer I could give her was, “No, it’s different”. From the most distant quasar to the nearest galaxy, each has their own and unique story. When you look at the stars, you are looking into history. Besides, the images make pretty pictures…well, some of them do. I haven’t had a chance to take many photographs, but if and when I do, I’d like to share them.
George

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