I’ve been hooked to astronomy ever since my teen-years. Watching Robert Zemeckis‘ Contact in the movie theater – twice, on two consecutive days took the cake completely. I joined an astronomy club that I am still a member of, and also got started a little in astrophotography. It was a lot more complicated back then. Multiple exposure stacking was not possible, and ASA1600 was a lot for film. Which meant you had to expose for several minutes. Straight. Usually your telescope mount had automatic tracking to counteract the earth’s rotation, but it was not precise enough to allow long tracking at say 500mm or more. That meant you had to stand by the telescope and manually correct the tracking device. Doing that for half an hour straight at night, in the winter even, really pulled in your nerves.
But it was and still is a soothing experience. To look at and photograph the stars, I mean. Somehow, just taking in the night sky as a whole and realizing how far away all those stars are, and how far away the other stars are that we can only see as the milky way, and so on… it grounds you.
Nowadays technology allows us to photograph the objects in the night sky so fast and at such a quality, it is really amazing. Back in the day the picture of Orion Nebula below would have taken 5 – 15 minutes, if you used color film. With my camera, which is not even state of the art (look at the Sony alpha7 for example) I had the picture in 30 seconds. Working at reasonable ISO 1600. It makes shooting space a lot more simple and comfortable. i am not getting younger, and do not have the time to spend nights on end staring into space any more either. But, I do still remember the good old times when I did just that.
30 second exp. @ 300mm, for tracking, OGPS-1 unit was used. Seeing was 5-6.
Maybe that is the point. Every photo of an object in space is a memory of that object. The light from the object was travelling thousands or millions of years until it hit the sensor of my camera. That means that image on the sensor is only a memory. That object doesn’t exist in that same way as it looks in the camera anymore. The same with my memories from the nights in the observatory. The pictures I take today bring back those memories…