Out there is another world, the black vastness of space bursting with colourful blobs of light, portraits of the planets, the moon, stars, nebulas, and galaxies – a different world, million miles away from where you are.
Astronomy is a broad field, a study of space and everything above us, and since the invention of photography, we seized the darkness of the night sky to capture astonishing, mind-blowing photos, we call it astrophotography.
The Peninsula sat down with one of the only four astrophotographers in the country – Ajith Everester, an Indian expat, at his rooftop observatory in Al Wukair, some 20km away from Doha. He’s been shooting the night sky since 2017.
“Since 2011, I used to photograph birds and animals, and one fine morning my daughter asked me for a telescope to see the planets, so when I saw the planets from the telescope, I asked why can’t we photograph it instead? And from there I started astrophotography.”
Everester started photographing Milky Way.“When you see something, you can also photograph it, this is the concept, so I thought of imaging the planets. I was using my Nikon D4 (SLR camera), then after that, the interest grew, and I wanted to master how to take an astronomical image.”
Ajith Everester at his observatory. Pic: Salim Matramkot/The Peninsula
Viewing his first few photos of the planets, he gleamed and said:“I was astonished, then I thought, yes, let’s do this.”
Five years back, he initially bought a telescope and started upgrading as the years progressed – the biggest he acquired is the sky-watcher telescope which is the largest of its kind at 12 inches, with f4 aperture.
It may look easy for some but doing astrophotography is not a piece of cake.
“You have to invest not only in the camera but filters also, so it can avoid light pollution. A filter costs QR7,000 – you need three of that. So around QR50,000 for the camera and filter altogether.”
Elephant Trunk Nebula
Viewing the images Everester took were dazzling, a unique spectacle, every photo glitters – you wouldn’t even imagine we’re living under these bright astronomical objects.
But this ‘passion’ of his is not a walk in the park, it requires time, patience, and money.
“The recent image took 40 hours to capture, which means three weeks to collect the images alone, but still I haven’t finalised it, I’m not fully satisfied with the colours, so I’m thinking of collecting more data or modifying it – it’s a Nebula,” Everester explained.
The Peninsula asked him among the thousands of images he took, which is the ‘special one’, he responded smiling as he said:“From the first image that I have taken, till this last image that I have photographed, everything is special.”
“If you ask me my favourite, then I’ll tell the latest one – that has the best quality. You don’t really distinguish which is your favourite, but lately, I’ve fallen in love with my recent images with the core of the Heart Nebula, I can tell that is my best image, that’s my best for now,” he said.
Sky imaging through a telescope is more than shooting the stars.“You should know engineering, physics, electronics, you should know everything,” Everester said laughing.
The astrophographer has also been doing seminars, workshops and online sessions, not only in Qatar but also in Oman, United Arab Emirates, to name some. He also has a few Qatari students who are gaining interest in the field and have been coming to his observatory and stargazing.
He also revealed the best places to capture the night in Qatar are Traina and Al Aamriya.“Last Wednesday we went to Traina and watched the meteor shower, there were 15-16 of it, the moon came at 10pm so we couldn’t continue. My wife, who has been supportive of my passion, loves it and my two daughters are enjoying it, it’s our mini-getaway from the bustle of the city.”
When asked for his advice for people who want to start off in this field he said that“astrophotography is a fantastic field, especially for people who are interested in nightlife, not in the sense of clubbing or spending time in the hotels, those who like the night sky.”
And one thing really struck me is his line on having a solitary moment:“If you want to be peaceful, go sit and look at the stars, you will get a lot of energy from that. The feeling of stargazing is something you cannot explain – you have to be there – at the moment.”
“When nobody is around you, only darkness and stars – that is the real peace, you will get plenty of energy to be charged, if you go one weekend out and sit under the stars, the next whole week, you are all charged – that much peace of mind you will get, and that you have to experience. We cannot explain it, I cannot, you have to feel it.”