Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Since before high school I've been a star gazer. When I was a teen I got a Bushnell 60mm refractor telescope and began searching the skies in the backyard of my Santa Cruz, CA home. I used to spend long, cold nights staring at the stars and watching for the occasional meteor. I remember first seeing what I came to realize were flares from satellites as the progressed across my sky. I learned some of the constellations and tried to excite my parents and friends at views of Saturn. (Good luck with that.)
As time progressed I lost some of the enthusiasm I once had due to time, expenses and most of all... math. I'm no math wiz, I failed algebra twice. I was listening to a couple of math-geek friends talk about calculus the other day and it made me feel completely stupid. My limited time studying astronomy made me realize that a massive amount of math was required to go anywhere in the field. And while I enjoyed star gazing, I really wasn't interested in spending a life crunching numbers.
However, astrophotography always impressed me. I had posters of certain views on my wall as a teen, and later learned to simulate such scenes with Photoshop. With the launch (and subsequent repair) of the Hubble Space Telescope the true beauty of the heavens were revealed apart from the veil of our atmosphere enshrouded skies.
I recently bought a camera and scope capable of doing a bit of astrophotography... but that was before I stumbled upon the site of Russel Croman.
Croman is a Scientologist, and while his "chosen faith" leaves much to be desired, his nack for taking some of the most breath-taking astrophotos is amazing. I've never seen photos, apart from the Hubble shots, this great. That said... Croman's 'observatory' is in his backyard in a suburb of Austin, Texas, and while it is still much more impressive than any set-up I've used or have seen (even at some college sites), I have to keep reminding myself that these are photos by a regular fellow. (Ok, one who has advanced degrees in Engineering and the like.)
I hope you'll take some time to view Croman's photos and consider the many things out-there that remain invisible to our limited vision, revealed only when the sensitive sensors of cameras are pointed at them for an extended period of time.