Photographing the Deep Sky – A Journey through Space and Time Chris Baker – 17th October 2018

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Having visited us a couple of years ago, Chris Baker did not dwell overlong on the description of his telescope five thousand feet up in the mountains of Spain. He is an early pioneer of remote astro-imaging, having available over 2000 hours of imaging time available each year and being able to control, from wherever he is, his 6 inch Takahashi Refractor equipped with a QSI683 CCD camera fitted with eight filters (L, R, G, B, Ha, Hb, SII and OIII).

He primarily wanted to show us his images taken over the last few years with this equipment and chose to present them in order of their distance from Earth, illustrating at the same time what was happening on Earth at the time the light left a particular object.

Having briefly got past the Solar System (he’s not ashamed to admit he’s not a planetry imager!) the first port of call was the Pleiades, the light from which left 440 years ago, when Elizabeth I was our monarch. Demonstrating clearly that faint nebulosity surrounding this cluster (achieved by incorporating a Ha image into the blue channel) we knew from the outset what a treat we could expect for the rest of the evening. Then followed magnificent images of the Dumbbell Nebula (1,350 ly), part of the Veil Nebula known as Pickering’s Triangle (1,470 ly) the Horsehead and Flame Nebulae (1,500 ly) and the Pelican Nebula (1,800 ly).

Onwards and outwards we went – the Elephant’s Trunk (2,600 ly), the Cocoon, Crescent and Rosette Nebulae (all about 3,000 ly) and the Bubble Nebula (7,500 ly). Finally, whilst still in the Milky Way, out to stars as old as the galaxy itself, the globular clusters M13 (22,000 ly), M5 (24,460 ly) and M3 (33,900 ly). All fabulous images in gloriously deep colours, with amazing clarity and depth. Some of these images involved over 50 hours of exposure!

After this of course, a big gap – because we needed to step out to neighbouring galaxies. M31 (2.5 mly), M33 (2.7 mly), M51 (23 mly), the Virgo Cluster (65 mly). Finally Chris showed us an image he took of the furthest object in his collection, Abell 2065, a galaxy cluster one billion light years away!

With great images, an engaging presentational style and a book of his images available for purchase afterwards for those that wanted, we had a most enjoyable evening. And for all of us aspiring astro-imagers, a clear message – must try harder!

Sandy Giles