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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Make Me Dream, Under the Stars

By Phil Plait

One of the things I love best is when someone looks through a telescope for the first time. Even better when it’s a kid; a simple glance through the eyepiece, a single moment, and a lifetime of joy and wonder is theirs.

During the week of the Perseid meteor shower in August 2015, two dozen high school students participated in an Astronomy Camp held by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. They traveled to the high desert in that state to learn how to observe the sky, and then joined up with 600 other astronomers to participate in the Oregon Star Party.

Astrophotographer Ben Canales followed them, and took footage of the events. He created this wonderful video, “Make Me Dream,” which made my heart very happy indeed.

Some technical detail: Canales used the new Sony A7 mirrorless camera, which uses new technology allowing it to shoot video at—get this—ISO 100,000 (it goes even higher, but Canales said that's the highest he could go and get acceptable noise levels, even with some fancy post-processing techniques). That’s incredible; such a high setting means the camera was phenomenally sensitive to light, which is how he was able to get scenes showing both the young students and stars of the Milky Way in the background, even out of focus (which spreads the light out, making them even dimmer). I have got to try one of those.

The last shot, showing the persistent Perseid train, is fantastic. Make sure you watch all the way to the end of the video, too.

All the sky footage was nice, but what really made my smile grow was the expressions on the faces of the students as they set up and used their telescopes. It gives a real sense of accomplishment to learn how to use a telescope; they can be finicky, and frustrating. But when things start to click, the whole sky becomes yours. When you know your way around the night sky it’s a treasure map … but it’s also the treasure itself.

Canales captures this perfectly. But what else do I expect from someone who took this picture, one of my all-time favorite astrophotos?

That is how I feel all the time when I am out under the stars. I highly recommend it. 

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