I want a telescope! I’m getting all Veruca Salt again. I craned my neck, squinted, got on my tip toes, elbowed to the front and almost had to get on a man’s shoulders. I was at a very busy Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition, in a small room at the Greenwich Royal Observatory very frustrated that I couldn’t get the theme tune to The Big Bang Theory out of my head. I just couldn’t grasp how these photographs were taken and put together to show us these scenes that exist 150million km away and beyond, or meteorite showers that were light years away. Impossible! Did these guys cheat?
Yes it was all about me! I hate it when I don’t know ‘stuff’ and felt really dumb. I googled what a light year was and according to the ‘How Stuff Works’ website:
“A light year is the distance that light can travel in a year, or:
186,000 miles/second * 60 seconds/minute * 60 minutes/hour * 24 hours/day * 365 days/year = 5,865,696,000,000 miles/year
A light year is 5,865,696,000,000 miles (9,460,800,000,000 kilometers). That’s a long way!
Using a light year as a distance measurement has another advantage — it helps you determine age. Let’s say that a star is 1 million light years away. The light from that star has travelled at the speed of light to reach us. Therefore, it has taken the star’s light 1 million years to get here, and the light we are seeing was created 1 million years ago. So the star we are seeing is really how the star looked a million years ago, not how it looks today. In the same way, our sun is 8 or so light minutes away. If the sun were to suddenly explode right now, we wouldn’t know about it for eight minutes because that is how long it would take for the light of the explosion to get here.”
Wowsers. So, as humans, we’re just a mere blip.
The photography on show was just so cool. It’s not every day you get to see meteorite showers, close ups of the sun and I’d never even heard of The Trapezium Cluster but can now appreciate how freakin beautiful it looks through a robotic telescope.
If you can’t make it to Greenwich Observatory, you can admire the winners and runner ups on the website and watch the short video stories on how some of these were captured. I’ll certainly be remembering my insignificance the next time I feel my inner Veruca Salt brewing. It’d be cool to have a telescope though, and now I’ve had my last session at the apiary for this year, perhaps it’s time to pick up something new to learn about… or pop on a plane to check out the Aurora borealis for myself.
And not in the exhibition…