August nights

I added four new shots to my astrophoto gallery this week.

Elephant Trunk Nebula

Elephant Trunk in Cepheus, 8/28/2016

NGC-6604 in Serpens

NGC 6604 in Serpens. 8/29/2016

NGC 6888

Crescent Nebula in Cygnus, 8/30/2016

Clouds in Cygnus! 8/30/2016

Clouds in Cygnus! 8/30/2016

The end of August is a superb time for star gazing in Torrey. The night gets started at a reasonable hour, the monsoon season has largely ended, the skies are often clear, and most unusual, the wind is light to none. I switched from my higher power Celestron C8 telescope to the wider field Stellarvue ST80 in order to get some of the nebulae in the Milky Way before it has moved too far west for the season. I have probably missed the chance to shoot into the heart of Scorpius where nebulae abound. Wei-Hao Wang is one of the best amateur astro-photogaphers out there  and you can be see his masterpiece of that region here. The summer went by fast. Acquiring objects requires the convergence of me being in Torrey, no clouds, no moon, and the free time to stay up late. I missed out in  June and July.

I have been thinking about the why of amateur astrophotography. I may just be wondering about the why of a hobby. The equipment I have, and that I am going to be getting much more of from my father, is an asset and I wonder how to best put it to work. I wonder what my objective is. Wei-Hao’s work at the link above is one he put hundreds of hours into. Why does he do it? The fact that I grabbed three objects on three nights belies my tendency for quantity over quality. I have been out to bag objects and have done so for most of the major objects. Next would be to try and get more quality by taking longer shots over more nights. Or, find more obscure objects that are interesting but less sensational. Or, next what? I am not inspired to try and get awards or any particular recognition. Is there something I can do to promote the dark skies around Torrey and next to  Capitol Reef National Park with its recent Gold Tier dark-sky designation? My set up, and my father’s that is coming to Torrey, are currently about photography and do not make for a spectator sport. Maybe there is something I can do to add an observing component, for star parties? For education?

Being out alone for long nights under the starry canopy can feel like being the only diner at a huge banquet.

Author and astronomer Chet Raymo says star gazing is one half observation and one half imagination. Maybe there is something about observatory domes and telescopes with the Milky Way arcing overhead that stimulates the imagination. Just gathering a few folks on a starry night and looking at an object or two might be memorable. It would be nice (productive) if I could stimulate a meaningful sense of dark sky conservation in someone(s) of influence.

 

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3 thoughts on “August nights

  1. Kirtly Jones

    Hobbies are a way that we can be “in the flow” or experience “eudemonia” – to be so engaged in the moment that time ceases to be measurable in ordinary ways. Ideally, it includes timelessness and mastery. This state of being, which some of us have been fortunate enough to have in our work, is so important to attain as we get older. It is good for our emotional, physical, and possibly spiritual health. Now…how should I respond to “gamers” who feel this way when they are caught up playing video games???? Kirtly Jones

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  2. MJF Images

    I used to do a lot more stargazing, and have done the education side of it as well. Now not so much, unfortunately. I think it’s a great idea to tie star parties and outreach to dark sky conservation. And dark skies aren’t just about light pollution. Regular pollution affects the purity of the night sky as well. Another very good astrophotographer who posts her work online is Sarah Wager; check her out.

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    1. Mark Bailey Post author

      Thanks for touching base, MJF. Gorgeous site you have. I look forward to spending a little time on it. That and Sarah Wager’s impressive site and work too. Thanks for the tip. Here’s to clear, dark skies.

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