Capturing Starlight

Did you know in addition to writing and teaching classes, in addition to creating and providing after school enrichments, and in addition to providing live planetarium shows, I also do a little design work for the Fairbanks Museum?

Recently, I designed and completed 20+ high definition panels for Capturing Starlight: The Art and Science of Astrophotography (click on the link to view the Museum’s article about it). Getting to view these amazing astrophotographs of nebulas, galaxies, stars, and even our own Moon, was such a privilege, but even more so, was getting to put these on display at our historical museum.

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Why? Astrophotography is not only difficult, but incredibly time consuming. If you don’t know anything about the process of photographing space and the stars, imagine this: it’s a clear, starry night sky, the Horsehead Nebula is clearly in your telescope’s sight, and you’re ready to snap away. To capture a deep space object, you have to leave the camera aperture open for five, sometimes 10 minutes. And this is for one photograph. When it comes to astrophotography, you need multiples of one shot in order to fully capture all the light traveling to us. And if you want to see more than one type of gas or element in a deep space object, you’ll have to change out your filter and start this process all over again. Once the photography part is finished, then you take all of your images and combine them in an astrophotography editing program (which then can take several more hours). Professional astrophotographers have anywhere from five to a dozen computer screens set up to handle all of the information they process.

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The students who took these astrophotographs using the Northern Skies Observatory this past summer hailed from three different organizations: St. Johnsbury Academy, White Mountain School, and the newly launched, Governor’s Institutes of Vermont on Astronomy.

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If you enjoy astrophotography, and learning about deep space objects, I highly recommend venturing to the Fairbanks Museum to take a gander at the community-provided exhibit. It was such an honor to be able to put my name up alongside an exhibit in such an important institution, it’s a project I will forever be eternally proud of!

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