When Sally and I first met, in 1994, it was obvious right from day 1 that we had many interests in common. Amongst them was a general interest in astronomy and all things science. We managed to take a bit more of an interest in about the year 2000 when we bought a 8″ telescope but for various reasons (mostly health related) we didn’t use it much and eventually we decided to sell it and more on to pastimes we were more able to do.
This has always been a disappointment to both of us. We both loved looking up at the sky and realising that we were seeing first-hand the universe in all its wonder. We said at the time that should our situation permit we would probably get another telescope… well that time has come.
To be honest, our health is certainly no better than it was then and with Sal’s cancer, in her case, probably a lot worse. Nevertheless, we miss it and so we decided to take up astronomy as a hobby again and to do what we can.
With me being reasonably fit, and with photography as one of my other hobbies, I decided that I would start out from scratch doing astrophotography. We have all seen the wonderful photos of galaxies and nebulae taken from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Well of course I won’t get anywhere near those but to it is possible to get some fantastic images with a relatively low outlay. Of course the added advantage of doing imaging is that Sally can also benefit without having to stay up all night in the cold!
Astrophotography is not easy!
Now it is worth mentioning one aspect of this decision that many of you reading this might already be shouting at your computer screen over. Astrophotography is not easy! In fact, it is not normally done by beginners. It is not normally something people move on to after a while of visual observing and once the basics of the technicalities of the equipment are more familiar. However, in my typical “all of nothing” approach that I tend to have over hobbies, I decided that I would dive straight in to photography right from the start.
One of the main reasons people start out visual observing and then move onto photography later is not only the skill level needed is that much greater but so is the cost. You can get started in visual astronomy with a very reasonable telescope and mount for a sum most people would be happy spending. Imaging requires better mounts, better telescopes, specialist cameras (usually 2!), a decent laptop, some way to power it all for hours and hours while the images are taken, filters, software… in fact, the list just goes on and on!
Although always more expensive than visual astronomy astrophotography can be done on a shoestring budget but as it takes many hours to get a single image and then many hours of work on the computer to process the image I didn’t want to do it half-heartedly. I wanted to have the best chance of success and that means buying good equipment.
So this is the start of our journey into space.