Homemade equipment

Victor Rogus uses things around the house and garage to make photo equipment.

From the dawn of time man has gazed at the stars and wondered what those distant points of light were, and what they meant to us humans here on Earth.

Early Man may have felt that the stars held great power over his earthy existence. He may have worshiped them or feared them, but one thing is certain, we humans have always held a great association with the night sky and celestial objects in general.

Today astronomy is a field that both amateurs and professionals study with equal enthusiasm. Specific areas of interest may include things like observing distant galaxies to see if something looks different there. Galaxies contain billions of stars each so an earthly observer can see billions of stars at all one time. A difference of brightness in any one of them may mean the discovery of a Super Nova, an exploding star, or “New Star,” now very bright as it ends its life.

On November 11, 1572, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe discovered a Super Nova in the constellation of Cassiopeia. What I find most fascinating about this discovery is that it was made long before the invention of the telescope.

Astronomical telescopes and their mounts can be very expensive especially if “store bought.” However it is amazing what can be made from materials readily available in a home, a garage or basement. Many books show plans of how to build your own wonderful equipment from things like old camera lenses, PVC pipe, lumber and other materials with simple tools found around the house.

One such book is, “All about Telescopes” by Sam Brown Published by Edmund Scientific Co. is a wealth of knowledge.

Other areas of astronomy might be watching and counting meteor displays and reporting your findings to the American Meteor Society, a group of scientists who collect and use your information to help in the better understanding of atmospheric phenomenon. No telescope or binoculars are needed, just a way to keep track of what kinds and how many meteors were seen on a particular night. Visit their website to learn more about becoming an observer and how to file an official report. Your work can be an important contribution to our understanding of annual meteor showers and storms.

Astro Photography and imaging can be the most expensive and one of the most difficult areas into which an amateur astronomer might engage. It is a highly rewarding and at times frustrating field of study. One must take care in choosing what celestial objects they would like to photograph, and then to acquire the appropriate equipment.

Deep space objects, known to astronomers as, the “faint fuzzies,” is one choice, the planets, the sun, nebula, comets, meteors and others may all require specific photographic equipment to do a truly good job. Some equipment can work in a general way to photograph many celestial events, and this is a good way to start. The lesson here is to study before you buy or build and then let your interests guide you to the proper equipment choices.

When I was a child, I loved the old science fiction shows I saw on TV like Star Trek and The Outer Limits. I marveled at the way those characters could travel through space and time. And now with my life-long affair with astronomy I realize that I can do much the same, in my own way.

When I use my telescope to view the sun (this must be done safely with the proper equipment) I know that at this distance I am looking eight minutes back into time. And when I venture out into our Solar System to gaze at Saturn’s magnificent system of rings I am seeing them as they were about 45 minutes ago. And when I turn my attention to The Great Nebula in Orion (M-45) I am looking far enough back in time to see a place the way it looked when Jesus Christ walked on our earth. An image so far away it took over 2,000 years for its light to reach my eyes. And still we can see farther.

If you seek inspiration, and are looking for a hobby filled with staggering beauty, challenges and wondrous ideas, all you need to do is step outside on a clear night, and you have begun.

Today’s My Story is written by Victor C. Rogus of Jadwin, Submit a My Story on any subject to salemnews@thesalemnewsonline.com or P.O. Box 798, Salem, MO 65560.