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Learn How to Capture the Cosmos

Astrophotography is the use of photography in astronomy: the photographing of celestial objects and phenomena. In addition to capturing details of extended objects like Earth’s moon, it also has the power to photograph objects not visible to the human eye, such as dim stars, nebulae, and galaxies. The Maria Mitchell Association’s Beginner’s Astrophotography Workshop intends to give participants the foundations needed to take dramatic pictures of the dark skies above.

Have you ever wondered how photographers capture the breathtaking, vivid Milky Way skyscapes? MMA’s Artist-in-Residence Charity Grace Mofsen and MMA’s Telescope Engineer and Astronomer, Gary Walker are offering a four-session course in Astrophotography. Nantucket boasts some of the darkest night skies in the Northeast: above us the cosmos certainly puts on a fabulous show.

In this workshop, students will photograph celestial objects and phenomena, starting with a cell phone and DSLR cameras, and then progress to the RC24-inch Telescope at the MMA Loines Observatory. Each class will build on the previous, and some homework will be assigned in between meetings to make the most of this course.

The first session will focus on an introduction to astrophotography. This will include a presentation of night shots taken around the island, as well as a demonstration of the equipment used to take such photos. The second session will be a trial run for amateur photographers who will work on camera setup, including manual settings, and practice shooting. The third session will consist of a continuation of practice shooting, while also focusing on capturing printable photos. The fourth and final session will be for post-processing. During this session, students will review images captured during the previous session and receive feedback. Also, an introduction to basic editing of the photos taken will be discussed.

Charity Grace Mofsen captures the island of Nantucket in all its glory–“In Light and At Night.” With a particular affinity for astrophotography, she believes there is always Light, if you have eyes to see it. From fine art landscapes to fun portrait sessions and creative product photography, she finds joy sharing her love of Nantucket with the hope that others will also cherish our island’s natural beauty. Describing her style as meditative, Charity Grace highlights the beauty of the island’s contrasts: the solitude of the off-season and the joys of summer, the colors of the Light and the wisdom of the Night.

Gary Walker has more than fifty years of experience as a consultant, professional engineer, amateur and professional astronomer. Walker is past CCD Chairperson, Secretary, and President of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). He retired as Director of Engineering of Navigation Products for Northrop-Grumman Corporation, where he enjoyed a thirty-year career. He was also deeply involved in the selection of the MMA’s RC- 24 inch and CDK17 Telescopes in 2007/2008. The first amateur to submit a CCD and sCMOS Observations to the AAVSO, Gary has over 111,000 variable star observations. He is also actively involved with teaching the MMA’s Astronomy National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates summer interns with aspects of telescope operation and data reduction.

The astrophotography course is geared towards beginner or budding astrophotographers interested in learning more about photographing celestial objects and will be held on August 10, 17, 24, and 31, with a registration deadline of August 7 at 6 pm. The course fee is $700. Pre-registration is required at Proceeds from the tuition will go toward offsetting/eliminating the cost of this course for local Nantucket students with a photography interest through scholarships in the Fall offering.

Articles by Date from 2012