Reaching for the stars

The Running Man Nebula in the Orion constellation, taken on a golf course in Corstorphine, Edinburgh: 400mm lens, 1.5min exposure with Star Tracker, courtesy Ben Winger
NGC1977 Running Man Nebula from the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter Schulman Telescope courtesy Adam Block
Running Man Nebula from the Mount Lemmon SkyCentre Schulman Telescope courtesy Adam Block

We’re dazzled by the pictures from outer space that the gigantic telescopes reveal. Whenever we look up at the sky at night, however, it seems we’re as dependent on our natural eyesight as primitive humans were. Rarely do we bring out the binoculars, or the telescope to observe the stars more closely.

Technology is, however, bringing the stars closer and closer to our lived experience. Our son delighted in his photograph taken recently on the golf course behind his family’s garden, even with all the surrounding light pollution from the Edinburgh urban area. I don’t know where he got the Star Tracker to enable his camera to pan against the earth’s rotation for a steady, long exposure, but I know I want one for my own camera! I’m looking at Move-Shoot-Move and wondering if their Starter Kit might be a reasonable ask for a birthday surprise. But I’m dreaming, really.

No, the amateur image doesn’t match the big guys, but to think that those nebulae are just there, just within reach in a dark sky, for us regular folks with a telephoto lens to experience. Man! I hear that the Observatory at Allenheads is putting on astronomical events again with an opportunity to gaze at the moon in glorious detail. But there’s something rather satisfying if you can capture just a small vignette from your own garden, isn’t there?

Toys are quite a joy, as we know from our childhood memories. But toys that reveal something to us, what an even more exciting joy!

Say, when was my birthday again?

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