Astrophotography / A Cosmic Story
There where’s a night sky, a remote summer house at 4 am and a telescope – there’s a place for astrophotography.
Simonas Pauliukevicius - an astrophotographer living in Vilnius – and his cosmic photography collection on Instagram made me stay in awe with eyes popped out of excitement. I simply could not believe there are so many others we don‘t normally see, in the sky right above our heads.
1 February, 2019
by IEVA JUODELE
Can you elaborate on the term “astrophotography”?
Yes, it‘s a type of photography, which helps you see objects in the night sky, such as galaxies, nebulas and planets.
And what equipment does astrophotography require?
In order to perform astrophotography, a telescope would do well. Also a telescope mount, a photo camera and a couple of software tools. I use Skywatcher Quattro 8“ telescope, Skywatcher NEQ6 mount and Canon 60D camera.
So, how much does it cost to gather all the equipment and produce a really nice picture?
It‘s hard to estimate the investment since I was collecting my equipment bit by bit. But overall, I would say it costs around 4000 Eur to have the basic gear, wrapped in meters and meters of wires.
To take one picture of the sky life, it usually takes from 1-10, sometimes even from 20-40 hours: that’s because of long exposure time. Then I spend around 5 hours to retouch the photo until it satisfies my personal taste. I work on it with special software of telescope retouch and then with Adobe Lightroom.
What is a typical astrophotographer and how did you become one?
There are not many astrophotographers in Lithuania, but usually, these are older retired people from the Western countries, the usual kind of people I see on astro forums. It may be my own stereotype but it’s a weird feeling anyway having the same hobby as someone’s grandma does.
As for me, astrophotography took me at school when one of my teachers allowed me to take a glance at Jupiter and Saturn from his telescope.
What are your top objects of the outer space?
Saturn: it is a highly photogenic planet enchanting by its beautiful rings. Also, it does associate with Cosmic Odyssey.
Sombrero Galaxy: it is a real challenge to take a nice picture of this galaxy since it requires professional and stable gear.
Horsehead Nebula: for its spectacular shape. Also, it‘s a number one object to photograph for the beginners in astrophotography.
Any interesting facts you have for us?
Once we spot a star in the sky, but it‘s actually where the star was at least 4 years ago. We never see it at real time.
For example, let‘s take Alpha Centauri. It is the closest star system to our planet Earth – around 4 light years from the Sun. Which means, once we see this star, we see it at the spot where it was 4 years ago.
Another interesting fact, personally to me, is a time-lapse of Nebula. I bet it would take hundreds of years to make one.
And the last one - every star you can see in the night sky is bigger and brighter than the Sun: this is just to illustrate that our star is nothing special and quite small…
Another cosmic question: do you support Elon Musk on our travel to Mars?
I do believe such travel is inevitable. One of another way humankind will expand beyond our planet. The matter is only when and how. I think since private companies experiment on such journey’s possibilities, it will make our travelling to Mars much cheaper than, in comparison, to the one organized by NASA.
And lastly - as a cosmos lover, what movies do you recommend?
These three are my favourites, which have barely something in common with cosmos: “American Beauty”, “Lost in Translation” and “Evangelion”.
Find Simonas on Instagram: @varnius