I am sure there is not a single person who is not fascinated by the mystical macrocosm that we live in and I am no exception. As a child, I always dreamed of being an astronaut just so that I could go into space (well, who doesn’t?), not even knowing what it really means to be one. The craze was so intense that when I stumbled up on a recent NASA initiative to send names written on a chip to Mars, in one of their missions, I immediately signed up for it. If not me, I thought maybe at least my name could make it into space. I used to gaze at the night sky, and still do, with naked eyes and wonder what the celestial objects seem to the naked eye while concealing their real unfathomable magnitudes. I can’t possibly even count the number of times I have walked right into a lamp post, gazing at the Moon or Jupiter. After growing up and choosing a different line of work, I still, somewhere in the back of my mind, want to follow my childhood dream. Perhaps I won’t. But I finally found a new passion which will make me live the dream, at least in a manner of speaking. To start off, I bought a new astronomical telescope. So what if I can’t physically reach the stars and planets, I can at least see them up close! And, with my new gadget that is going to be very close!
I often visit planetariums and observatories, Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles being the most prominent one. The articles and shows there just mesmerize me every time even though I might have seen them a gazillion times. I have waited in 20 yard long queues just to get a few seconds worth of glance at the celestial objects they show through their public telescopes. But now with my new purchase, it’s no waiting, just gazing!
Okay, so here are the very first pictures I took of the Moon and I was blown away (not just figuratively, I must say). Breathtaking! Mesmerizing! And these were taken on just the third day of my embarking upon my new passion.
(If you are wondering how I clicked those pictures with the telescope, I used a camera that can be attached to the eyepiece-socket of the telescope and has a TFT monitor. The images do not look the clearest as these are snapshots of the screen. To professionals and probably even me a few years down the line , these might seem like junk, but means a great deal to a beginner like me today!)
As a beginner, using an astronomical telescope generally involves a steep learning curve. I am glad that on the very first day, after a long ordeal of calibrating and focusing my new telescope, I, at least, managed to see the moon like I was only yards away from it. Two days later, I took the above pictures. The images can probably speak for themselves, though seeing the moon through the eyepiece was even better and it looked even more colossal. Gazing at the craters of the moon through the lens was like looking at a golf ball through a microscope. The only thing more bloated than this statement was the moon itself! Also, neither am I a good photographer nor do I have a decent camera. Mind you, even if you are a great photographer, astrophotography is altogether a totally different beast and many experts in the area of astronomy do not even recommend getting into it before first mastering the art of using a telescope. Although, I strongly recommend reading about the science of optics first which will help you understand how and why different optical elements make a difference. Even for getting a good view through the eyepiece, you need to experiment with a myriad elements like lenses and filters.
The next best thing I saw was a colorful Jupiter and its four Galilean moons – Callisto, Io, Ganymede and Europa. It was my first day of using the telescope and I could see the red gas bands on Jupiter through the lens. And when I looked above with naked eyes, all I could see was a bright, shiny speck. That was the moment I decided to start this blog because all I could think of was sharing this with the world (as if I made a startling discovery… Eureka!). As a beginner, that seems like landing on the Moon. I can finally call myself an amateur astronomer. Although even if you have made many useful contributions to this field and/or have had more than a decade of experience with this kind of things, you might still be called an amateur in this field. This easily speaks of the might and scope of this realm.
So, friends, for those of you who are already motivated to start their journeys like me, here is a good guide to getting started with buying a good astronomical telescope.
Stay tuned as I take you along on my amazing journey through the skies!