Taking photos of the cosmos from a suburban home
‘A telescope is a time machine. When you look out into space, you're looking back in time’
February 12, 2019, 5:20 pm ASTLast Updated: February 13, 2019, 10:27 am
It was a freezing, windy February night on Sunday. But the sky was clear, and that’s all that mattered to Blair MacDonald.
MacDonald is an astrophotographer. He’s been taking photos of the night sky for 25 years.
“My wife bought me a telescope many, many years ago—I don’t think she’s forgiven herself for that yet,” he said with a laugh.
His current setup cost him about $12,500.
The first step to taking photos is hauling the 91-kilogram telescope from the safety of his garage to his driveway. MacDonald tries to take photos about three times a month, depending on the weather.
It used to take him more than an hour to set up his equipment. Now, because of software automation, it takes him 10 minutes.
Everything is controlled remotely from the comfort of MacDonald’s home. With the click of a mouse, the camera takes a photo of the sky. In this case, the telescope is pointed at the moon.
He then moves the scope over to the next object: the Orion Nebula. The light seen from the Orion Nebula is about 1,400 to 1,500 years old.
“One of the interesting things about a telescope is that a telescope is a time machine. When you look out into space, you’re looking back in time,” said MacDonald.
He said the further things are from earth, the older they are.
Telescopes like the Hubble Space telescope can take pictures of objects 10 billion light years away, which is much more powerful than MacDonald’s “humble” telescope.
But, he said anyone can take photos of the cosmos, even with just a tripod and a camera.
“It’s a unique science. You have an archeologist, and they want to know what a dinosaur looked like. All they have is bones,” said MacDonald. “They can’t tell you what the surface of the dinosaur looked like. They can make an educated guess, but we can go and look.”
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