Photography series: part 3 – first ever visit to an observatory

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I know this isn`t a particularly pretty photo. It`s grainy, the colours are off, the light is flaring (that`s the moon up there, in case you`re wondering). I do like the composition, but I`d preferred to have a better photograph.

Still, I do want to talk about this picture.

You see, in February this year, I went to an observatory for the first time in my life. “Why is this such a big deal?” I hear you wonder. Well, it`s a big deal for me, because I`ve actually liked astronomy since I was, oh, 11 years-young, give and take. At least I remember doing a presentation on it in primary school, and wanting to be an astronomer. This was before I found out exactly how much math is a part of daily life if you`re an astronomer. I`m not fond of math. At all.

But astronomy never really left me.

My interest in it changed though. I started off like everyone else, with the very basic “Saturn`s rings are so awesome!” kind of thing. I learned more and more about it. I learned about supernova`s and black holes and light years. I learned about aliens and NASA and SETI. I remember when it was decided Pluto`s not a planet (don`t worry Pluto! I`m not a planet either!).

By now though, I`ve progressed onto the more theoretical side of things, being much more interested in string theory, multiverse, astrophysics. I watch Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking and read Carl Sagan`s books. I especially like the Discovery series of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. It`s like God is explaining the Universe. Awesome no matter how you look at it.

So yes, visiting an actual observatory after 10+ years of wanting to visit one, is a pretty big deal to me. It was only a tiny local one with one telescope, but it felt like a life achievement to me.

The reason it took so long for me to visit one is really very simple: there is no observatory in the area I`m originally from. None. Nothing. Nada. In fact, I`m kind of wondering if there`s any science going on there at all, aside from basic medicine.

For someone who`s from such a forlorn wasteland that we`d have to go through 2 provinces for the nearest observatory, this is a big thing. Actual civilisation! Science instead of farms! Science in this very same region! Only half an hour away by train! Except it was closed to the public for a very long time, threatened to disappear forever. Funding for it had been pulled, the original organisation had given up and left, leaving the building (and the telescope in it!) to decay.

Luckily, two of my colleagues from the caves, are huge science fans. One of them started a new committee, based entirely on volunteers. They managed to renew funding from the municipality, gathered a bunch more volunteers, and started to set the place up again. They changed the name (and the paint everywhere). They fixed the telescope, went around promoting the observatory, developed new school programs, and all in all put a lot of work in it.

And in February this year, it all paid off. The observatory was reopened to the public, with a grand performance with Star Wars music and costumes. There was even an R2-D2 riding around. That evening is where this picture is from. It was my first time at an observatory, the first time getting to look through an actual proper telescope.

These kind of things make me very happy. To see that people can work so hard on something they love, to put all that time and effort in it. And then seeing the results, in the reopening of this tiny building.

I only saw my colleague from the caves shortly, with only just enough time to congratulate him on the good work, before his attention was pulled away by all the other people wanting to congratulate him as well.

But I loved getting to be there. It reminded me of what passion and hard work can achieve. And thinking about it again, it reminded me I ought to work harder on my passions, too. It`s never too late, right?

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