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astronomy | astronomy – Tim's Words

Tag : astronomy

It’s Been a While

While I sync my twitter stream to this blog weekly, I haven’t actually posted here for a while, so I thought I’d just give an update on why my creative writing has seemed to staunch. A year ago, in October 2012, I was re-introduced to the local astronomy club, the Twin City Amateur Astronomers. I’d been a member as a young man, leaving the club for college in the mid-70’s. Computer programming, music, marriage, family, career, kids in college, and a whole host of other things kept my attention in the intervening years. In those years, the club continued and grew in its capabilities. I ran into a member I knew from those days, and he told me about the incredible equipment now available to club members and so I decided to check it out. When I saw the facility they had, with a very large telescope dedicated to astrophotography, I was instantly hooked. I rejoined the club and began to learn the art and science of making images of the heavens. I’ve loved every minute of it in the past year.

As a result of the time I’ve spent and the coaching I’ve received, I’ve become a decent astrophotographer. I certainly wouldn’t assert that I’m anywhere near proficient, but I’m moving in that direction. Astrophotography is an extremely technical discipline coupled with the creative art of making beautiful imagery. I love the juxtaposition of those two aspects. It challenges me intellectually, creatively, and gives me plenty of time to think. My average image requires several nights of imaging to acquire the data for the image, and most of that time is spent in solitude, looking at the sky and considering what it means to me. On one of those nights, I tried to write that down. The Comfort of the Astronomer is the short piece that resulted. I think it captures it all perfectly for me.

Here is one of my most recent images. It is of a galaxy, very close to us, 2.5 million light years distant. There is so much to discuss about the astrophysics present in the image, but to me, it’s simply beautiful. I hope you enjoy it. You can see all my images on my Astrobin page.

Hubble’s last words

The following quote by Edwin Hubble was published posthumously. These are perhaps the last words he wrote to a world that he had already forever changed.

As for the future, it is possible to penetrate still deeper into space – to follow the red-shifts still farther back in time – but we are already in the region of diminishing returns; instruments will be increasingly expensive, and progress increasingly slow. The most promising programmes for the immediate future accept the observable region as presently defined, hope for only modest extensions in space, but concentrate on increased precision and reliability in the recorded description. The reconnaissance is being followed by an accurate survey; the explorations are pushed towards the next decimal place instead of the next cipher. This procedure promises to reduce the array of possible worlds as surely as did the early rapid inspections of the new territory. And later perhaps, in a happier generation, when the cost of a battleship can safely be diverted from insurance of survival to the consolations of philosophy, the march outward may be resumed.

For I can end as I began. From our home on the Earth, we look out into the distances and strive to imagine the sort of world into which we are born. Today we have reached far out into space. Our immediate neighbourhood we know rather intimately. But with increasing distance our knowledge fades, and fades rapidly, until at the last dim horizon we search among ghostly errors of observations for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. The urge is older than history. It is not satisfied and it will not be supressed.

~ Edwin Hubble, 1953

Astronomy Postings are Moving

I’ll no longer be posting astronomy-related posts on this blog. I’ve created a new blog, Moonshot, where all my photography, observations, and articles will be moved, and all future material will be posted. Please check it out often. I’m very active in my astronomy hobby.

Why did I do this? Well, this blog was originally intended to be a place for creative writing and musings and such. The astronomical postings were becoming much less about creative writing and more about journaling my activities and what I’ve learned. So it no longer feels like that stuff belongs here. That said, there will be plenty of words there, along with what I hope will be increasingly spectacular images of the moon and maybe other stuff in the heavens. So do add it to your RSS reader, and keep track of my doings with my telescope!

Observing Journal


  • Location: Back yard
  • Transparency: excellent
  • Seeing: good
  • Visual Limiting Magnitude: ~2
  • Temperature: ~70F
  • Telescope: Meade LXD75 AR5

Sky was very bright with the Full+2 moon, transparency helped but faint objects were still very difficult to detect. Seeing was very good, which allowed me to get a good mosaic of the moon with the LPI.

Objects observed

  • M13
  • M57
  • M27
  • M71 – very faint and difficult to see in the moonlit sky
  • Jupiter – Three Trojan moons were tightly clustered, forth was farther out. Many belts visible.
  • Moon – Full+2, terminator halfway across Mare Crisium

Front Yard Astronomy

Before sundown today, I moved my telescope to the front yard, because I wasn’t going to be able to see the moon from my driveway.  The trees back there hide the sky, except for directly overhead, and the moon wasn’t going to be directly overhead.  I got it all set up, and received quite a few wondering stares from passers-by in the process.  As it was getting dark, I turned the scope on and started getting set up to take pictures.  It was going to be a good night for that.

As I was messing with it, a family walked by as they left the park.  The kids shouted over to me asking if I could see planets with my telescope.  I replied that I could certainly see the moon, and invited them to come look.  They scrambled across the yard as excited as if I’d offered them each $10.  Mom and dad dutifully followed behind, doubtless wondering what this weirdo was after.  I put an eyepiece in, got a stool for the kids to kneel on, and pointed the scope at the moon.  It was so fun to watch the kids scrambling for look after look, while mom and dad tried to sneak a peak between the kids.  They’d never seen the moon like that, and it was fascinating, exciting, and beautiful to them.

As they left, the oldest boy asked when it would be possible to see the moon again.  I told him that he’d have to look up in the sky and see if the moon could be seen.  If it could, then it might be that I’m out looking at it, and if I am, they would certainly be welcome to drop by again.  He was happy to hear that!

It’s impossible to say, and who will ever know, but perhaps a scientist or an astronomer or a physicist or a doctor, or who knows what, was born tonight.  Perhaps a simple peek at the moon opened up a universe of possibilities that didn’t exist before.  It’s exciting to think so.

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