1500 light years away from Naas

THIS beautiful shot of the sky was taken from his Naas home by a Celbridge Camera Club photographer.

THIS beautiful shot of the sky was taken from his Naas home by a Celbridge Camera Club photographer.

Most of us will snap a picture in much less than a second, but when Frank Butler pressed the button of his camera, he had to make sure the shutter was open for four and a half hours.

The photograph shows the horsehead nebula on the left and the flame nebula on the right. This is in the constellation Orion.

“I hope people enjoy it and it inspires them to start looking at the night sky,” said Frank, who added that the subject of the photograph is 1,500 light years away, millions of miles.

Frank has been been interested in astronomy since his father gave him a book on stars when he was a boy.

“About 10 years ago I invested in a telescope and used this to get to know the night sky. Over time I realised that to see detail and colour in dim and distant galaxies and nebulae, long exposure photography was the only way.

“I invested in a larger telescope with motors to enable it to track the moving night sky.”

But Frank, a member of Astronomy Ireland, knew very little about photography, so his initial attempts were not very successful.

“I joined Celbridge Camera Club who helped me to understand the technical and artistic aspects of photography and how to put them into practice. The members of the club are very helpful and encouraging.”

He was awarded his initial certificate by the Irish Photgraphic Federation, the LIPF, last year and has used what I have learnt to improve his astro-photography.

“Taking deep sky pictures is demanding. Typically you can’t see what you are photographing, making it a challenge to focus and position it in the frame.

“Since the objects are so dim, the camera I use is cooled to –25 degrees to reduce noise. Exposures can be over an hour so it is necessary to guide the telescope using a bright star near the object.”

Another problem is light pollution, “particularly when a local night club decides to beam its spotlights all over the sky”, said Frank

The best nights are cold and frosty so it can be tempting to stay in by the fire instead. But the results are well worth it. The picture published here was taken on a particularly clear night.

Frank used a t ring which attaches his camera to a Celestron telescope he has.

“Some pictures can have scientific value but for me the challenge is simply to get the best photos I can with the equipment I have.

“Astronomy Ireland have always been supportive and have published many of my pictures in their magazine, Astronomy and Space,” he said.