The Young Astronomer
At public star parties I’ve often been asked the following question; “Why don’t you attach a video camera to your telescope and project the image onto a computer screen? That would make it so much easier for children to see and enjoy.”
I’m sure the people asking this question are well meaning but, as far as I’m concerned, they’re missing the point entirely. If they’re looking for easy stay home and surf the net for pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope or the Cassini Spacecraft. Going outside, looking at the night sky and then leaning over, or climbing a stepladder, to peer into at telescope eyepiece does represent an investment of time and energy. However observing the actual photons that emanated from the Andromeda Galaxy and ended their two and a half million lightyear journey on the retina of your eye is to establish a far more personal relationship with the universe.
Personal relationships always require work but the satisfaction is worth the effort. Galileo, Christiaan Huygens and Giovanni Domenico Cassini didn’t look at computer displays. They gazed through optical telescopes and in doing so they redefined our understanding of the cosmos. When I set up my telescope I feel that I’m a kindred spirit showing my respect for the great astronomers of the past. I also feel a shared sense of community with the others at the star party. Even if we don’t speak, or have any direct contact at all, there remains a common thread. We are people of different backgrounds, different ages and different values but, for a fleeting moment, we are all brought together by one commonality; a fascination of the night sky.
I rather like this photograph. It took it about half an hour after sunset. In the gathering darkness Jupiter has become visible and the young boy seated at the telescope is, for the first time, making the correlation between his naked eye observations of the planet and what he views through the telescope. The young astronomer looks through the scope and sees the bumble bee fat gas giant with its easter egg cloud bands and four largest moons. He then turns his head skyward to the actual planet floating in the twilight blue seeming to grow brighter by the minute. In wonder the boy turns his attention back to the telescope and the process begins anew. Perhaps this moment of discovery will lead to a lifetime love for astronomy, or perhaps the boy will soon move on to other interests. Either way I felt privileged to witness his wonder.
- Aperture: ƒ/2.8
- Camera: LEICA X2
- Flash fired: no
- Focal length: 24mm
- ISO: 1000
- Shutter speed: 1/30s