Over the Christmas holiday I stumbled across a recently released NASA photo of Uranus, its intricate ring system and 9 moons captured by the orbiting James Webb Telescope. This image is truly spectacular but it is also a good reminder of the great resources of the club as we just finished offering zoom classes on Urban Astrophotography: Planetary Imaging where club members learned how to use their own telescopes to capture amazing pictures of the planets, moon and sun. Our class offerings for the new year are jam packed with great content and I urge you to check them out on our webpage and click on the classes tab to see our upcoming offerings which include a free class on the Southern Skies on January 11th, Atoms and Astronomy starting on January 16th and Introduction to Night Sky Photography starting on January 18th. Also, we are planning on the week of January 22nd to host our very first Gateway Remote Telescope star party where we will be live streaming views from our telescope in a dark sky location in Texas and showcasing many deep sky objects!
The new NASA space telescopes are busy generating all these fabulous pictures. Indeed, with the internet, it is so easy to pull up a great picture of any night sky object that; consequently, people often say why bother with looking through a telescope or even attempting to do your own imaging. Certainly, this type of criticism is true with almost any other professional endeavor, from playing basketball to singing in a play. While we can all enjoy being spectators, I think it is safe to say that for many of us, engaging and participating directly is just much more enjoyable. While none of us has access to the world class scientific instruments of professional astronomers, we do have the benefits of modern technology which are considerable. Let’s take a look at a scientific grade picture of the supernova remnant of the Crab Nebula, or Messier number 1. I found this picture in the NASA archives from 1950… and this is my own photo with my backyard telescope I took a couple of days ago. The NASA image was taken with the Hale telescope – which is the monstrous 200-inch telescope at the Palomar Observatory in Los Angeles. I hope you can see just how far our technology has gotten us! Today with modest equipment an amateur astronomer can capture pictures of the heavens with incredibly better detail than what was state of the art for the best telescopes and observatories in the world just 50 years ago! We live in truly exciting times, and the AAA is becoming more tech savvy and increasingly bringing these new modes and practices of imaging to our members!