TAWBAS star party

Editor’s Report: Catching the Light

Now is the perfect time to try your hand at night-sky photography.

Seronik - M31

MY ANDROMEDA When it comes to astrophotography, I’m just a beginner. But even so, once in a while, everything goes right and I get a picture I like—such as this one showing the Andromeda Galaxy, one of the autumn sky’s finest photographic targets. And if I can do it, so can you! Photo by Gary Seronik

If you’ve never aimed a camera skyward before, you’re missing out on a pretty special experience. “If I want a picture of the Andromeda Galaxy, I’ll just go on-line and download one!” I’m sure you’ve heard that sentiment before—perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. While it’s certainly true that few of us have the skill needed to pull off a shot as amazing as some of those you find on-line or the ones we’ve published in the following pages, that’s largely beside the point. Like so much of backyard astronomy, the fun is in the doing. And now is a great time to give astrophotography a go—the equipment has never been better or more affordable.

One reason you might take the time to capture your own picture of the Andromeda Galaxy, for example, is because that photo will be yours. The fact of the matter is that the relationship we have with a photograph we take ourselves is profoundly different from the one we have with images we simply download. When I look at my own Andromeda shot, I vividly recall the cool, dewy night spent in the backyard making the exposures and then the thrill of finally getting the processing just the way I wanted it. For me, those memories are as much a part of the finished photo as the galaxy itself.

One of Canada’s best astrophotographers is Daniel Meek of Calgary, Alberta. His images have appeared in SkyNews many times, and I was curious to hear what an experienced photographer enjoyed about the art and craft of deep-sky imaging. For Dan, it’s about more than simply bringing home a picture. “When I record an image of a distant galaxy or nebula, it’s much more than a two-dimensional representation of that particular object—I’m also imaging a moment in time that occurred millions of years ago and will never be repeated,” he says. “The photons that I capture with my camera are unique to my image and my image alone.”

I love the idea that a photograph preserves a brief slice of a galaxy’s history by soaking up a handful of the very photons that originated within the galaxy millions of years ago. If that doesn’t inspire you to give astrophotography a try, I don’t know what will!

Editor Gary Seronik invites your comments and astronomy-related observations and photos, which can be directed to him at [email protected].

Check out the September/October issue of SkyNews (on newsstands now) for an expanded version of Gary’s Editor’s Report.

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