What Astrophotography taught be about life.

My fascination with the night sky has never dwindled. When I was younger my dad purchased a telescope from Edmund scientific, not sure we were too successful in seeing the night sky, nor were able to get the Pentax Spotmatic to take pictures of it. Recently, having more free time I decided to learn about it. Driven from the Astrophysics class and the pictures that the JWTS took, I found myself diving into another hobby. 

The above picture is the Crab Nebula taken last year from the JTWS (They allow you to download the images but linked to the flikr for you to look at all the pictures. If you know anything about the JWTS, it is not a visible light spectrum camera. In other words, if you flew into space over sixty-five hundred light years away and could see the Crab Nebula in person it would not look anything like this. 

The stunning colors are done with a simple trick. Our brain can only interpret color based on the cone in our eyes absorb one of three colors on the light spectrum (Red, Blue, or Green). Ok, maybe that is simplifying how we see color, more details on how we actually see color is here. Which is a small part of the wavelength. The ROYGBIV, we remember from high school. The scientist (and for this story) and artists who help convert the data coming back from the JWTS to a picture that is visible are done with a simple trick. They assign visible light spectrum to a range in the infrared (IR above) and then render the image in color. They can even change the ranges of infrared to alter the image. There is an art to this.  

What is more amazing is that backyard astrophotographers can do the same thing. There is a website that is dedicated to displaying the Astronomy Picture of the Day (ASOD). Many were taken by NASA, but many as you scroll through the archive are taken by someone in their backyard, or at park. Taking them at home requires some special equipment, but not as much as you think but requires time. In a recent seminar I went to, the lecturer mentioned that it was often twenty to thirty hours of picture taking along with twenty to forty hours of post processing time. The below picture was taken in New Jersey by Brian Brennan, and was the speaker at a local astronomy event. He did this by stacking dozens of individual photos shot with different filters over the course of a few days. 

After hearing how long he spent setting up his rig, taking the picture and post processing my first thought that this is not a hobby for someone with ADHD. But after spending some time researching the equipment, the software etc. I started thinking differently. 

The beauty we see is not often visible to us immediately. Often, we find this beauty after interactions over days and years. I wrote a few times that effort and time needed to climb the mountain made the view better than if someone just dropped you off at the top. It is not just the work; it is the time taken to see what is there. And with each visit you may find something you have not seen before. It is like that movie that you laughed all the way through and watching it again you catch something you missed the previous times you saw it.  

But this is the same with people, we find beauty in them by interacting with them over the course of time. Sometimes we are quick to judge but often we are rewarded with our patience. Like stacking dozens of photos of varying wavelengths to provide a beautiful image, dozens of interactions with someone where the locations and situations become those different wavelengths allows you to paint the picture of who someone is. The final portrait will always be better than just one picture standing alone. 

No, I have not started taking pictures yet, my ferry photos are still my core photography. But I am starting to learn about what equipment I need, the techniques on how to take the photos, and finally how to post process the pictures into an image. I am sure just like the sunrise, sunset, my family, and my friends that I will find beauty when putting it all together. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images courtesy of NASA with the links in the blog post.

1 Comment

  1. R-G

    Firstly, l❤️ved the conclusion!
    This is hands down one of my favourite posts here.

    I believe this section could be expanded further:
    “Our eyes can only see what is in the visible light spectrum.”

    It is really our brain interpreting colours, which show what powerful machines they are, and also emphasizes that we do not all perceive things the same way.

    To be philosophical, this “perception problem” can be applied to any aspect of life, which is in a way what astrophysics taught me about life early on. 😎

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