Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Celestial Revelation

So we are on vacation at the lake. And so, being far away from larger cities, I decided to pack my tripod, telescope and other optical gear.
This was a 10 min timelapse of Polaris. As you probably know, everything spins along this axis, which makes for interesting pictures. Also a reason why even computerize, autoguiding scopes altazimuth mounts (like mine) will not suffice for timelapse photography and why I'm trying to convince my wife I need an equatorial mount (which not only moves the scope on 2-axes but also rotates it).
 But perhaps the biggest revelation to me, in all my years of being a geek and loving astronomy, is this was the first time EVER I was able to visualize the Milky Way with the naked eye. It's not very striking (still some light pollution) but it was certainly visible quite easily. You see it in this picture, running down the middle of the picture, seemingly as though there are some patchy splotches. There is a also a star cluster at the top; Cassiopeia is also in it, though the 10 second exposure makes all the stars show more brightly so the W shape is not easily seen.
In this picture, you can see the Andromeda galaxy at the left of the picture, as a small whitish blot. This is the closest spiral galaxy to ours. The Milky way is seeing in the right 1/3, with a streak from a lucky shot of a shooting star.
It was pretty damn cool seeing the Milky Way. Sometimes, when one is troubled by our earthly worries, looking up at the celestial bodies does give you a fresh perspective on things. That in reality, as huge as our problems might seem, we are just a tiny planet of the millions (?) out there. That perhaps our troubles are not as big as they seem.
It does also make one wonder. Is there life out there? The scientist in me is 100% sure. With the sheer number of stars out there, the probability of life beyond Earth becomes a certainty. And yet, one has to wonder. Who created all this? Is there a Higher Power out there?
Despite being on vacation I got less sleep than usual last night. I went to bed at midnight, and woke up at 4AM. Was it worth it?
EVERY.DAMN.MINUTE.
(Ask me again in 2 hours when I'm about to pass out!)

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