Look up at the night sky and it’s likely you will spot the Big Dipper or the North Star, but there is so much more to see that’s invisible to the naked eye. And that’s where Bryan comes in. He spends as much free time nocturnal as social norms (and the atmosphere*) will allow tracking stars with his astrophotography gear. This is not your dad’s telescope. In fact, it’s rarely just one telescope. Bryan’s equipment fills up most of the available space in his beloved Suburu Outback in which he ventures to some of the darkest and most remote spots he can find. There are heavy-duty tripods, telescopes 10″+ in diameter with cameras mounted astride, tracking scopes mounted on top of those scopes, and cables running back and forth to a computer to help control and make sense of it all.
Bryan got hooked at age 12 when he first caught a glimpse of one of Jupiter’s moons with his 20X telescope in the backyard. Now it may seem crazy, but the scope in Bryan’s 12-year-old hands was about as powerful as what Galileo used to make all his remarkable discoveries. And while bigger is usually better when it comes to telescopes, that’s not the case when it comes to cameras and megapixels in astrophotography. Because these photographers work with such miniscule amounts of light, the camera sensor is king. Newer cameras have higher megapixels, but their sensors are still the same size; leaving less surface area per pixel to capture light. The bigger each individual pixel is, the less noise your image will have overall. An important factor to consider when you’re taking multiple 5-10 minute exposures and compositing them together.
Bryan’s favorite objects to photograph are The Iris Nebula and NGC 6946, aka The Fireworks Galaxy, and his favorite place to photograph them is at Peddler Hill in the Sierra Nevada range in California. You can see more of his work on his web site and if you’re interested in learning more about astronomy Bryan recommends reading, “Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe” by Terence Dickinson.