Cosmic curiosity : Gulf Weekly Online


Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille

By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

BAHRAINI astro-photographer Yusra Abdulqader Taj was over the moon when National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) featured one of her celestial images on their website, and hopes her photography will inspire young astronomers to shoot for the stars.

The 40-year-old Information Technology professional at the Interior Ministry turned her love for space into her passion during the pandemic, snapping up images with two dedicated cameras (ZWO ASI 533 one shot colour camera and ZWO ASI 294 monochrome camera) and 10 filters.

Her image of the SH2-132 Lion Nebula, taken in August, was featured on Nasa’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) site, that posts photographs of the cosmos captured by professionals from all over the world.

“I have been fortunate to represent Bahrain in the Nasa APOD,” Yusra, a resident of Riffa, told GulfWeekly. “I hope my images will encourage young astronomers from Bahrain to pursue this hobby and to represent Bahrain’s skies to the astro-community worldwide.”

An amateur astro-photographer for two years, Yusra’s love for the moon and stars started from a young age and her hobby was ignited by her laptop.

“I love gazing at the moon and I love the fact that the night sky is unique, in the sense that it is the one place we, as humans, share equally regardless of where we are on Earth,” she said.

“But, I decided to take up this hobby quite recently when a random Windows wallpaper of the Rosette Nebula, by Hubble telescope, popped up on my laptop lock screen.

“This was the first time I had seen a nebula and I was amazed by its beauty. I went down the rabbit hole of astrophotography. The curiosity of the cosmos and the possibility of capturing something not visible to the human eye prompted me to delve into this hobby.”

While astrophotography is both challenging and fun, it does require a steep learning curve, and one should be prepared to spend his/her time to learn how to use the equipment and the software, and develop their skills to process images.

Yusra started her cosmic journey with a normal DSLR full frame Canon 6D Mark ii and a Canon 75-300mm lens. She also used Samyang 24mm and 135mm prime lenses for wide field photography. However, for imaging deep sky objects like the nebulas and galaxies, she used a William Optics telescope, that comes with an apochromatic lens with a focal length of 478mm and a focal ration of f/5.9, that can be reduced to f/4.7 with a focal reducer.

“Light pollution filters also reduce and block the glow of city lights and capture the emission signal of the object in the cosmos,” said Yusra.

She also advises in investing in the right mount, which is pivotal for astrophotography.

“The process is not as straightforward as normal photography,” she said. “It requires planning, patience, and image processing skills to get the best results. It is also important to know the weather forecast before starting any imaging session.

“Bahrain, in most part, has clear skies throughout the year, but heavy light pollution, hot weather and humidity make astrophotography a daunting process. It requires astrophotographers to spend many hours collecting multiple images of a specific object.”

Over time, she has captured star clusters, bright nebulas, emission nebulas, planetary nebulas and galaxies. All her images have been taken from her backyard.

Her favourite photograph is of the M31 – The Andromeda Galaxy, which she said ‘was very challenging’ as it took more than 4,000 shots (27hours and 70GB data). She now plans to shoot the IC 434 – The Horse Head Nebula in the Orion Constellation with a monochrome camera.

Her astro images are published on the Astrobin website, a community where astro photographers from all over the world showcase their work.

For details, visit Yusra Q’s gallery on AstroBin or @astronumb on Instagram.


Astro Fest is go for launch at Orlando Science Center


ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Science Center is set to captivate young astronomy lovers with a weekend of space-themed events.

Astro Fest kicks off at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 19, and lasts through Nov. 20. Daily hours will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Attendees will get immersive experiences such as simulation games, live shows and lab experiments.

Guests can also see an astrophotography exhibit by Derek Demeter, director of Seminole State College’s Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium. The exhibition, called “Capturing the Cosmos,” portrays Florida’s night sky and our celestial neighbors in the Solar System.

Admission to Astro Fest is included with your Orlando Science Center admission, meaning ticketholders can add the space-themed fun to everything else offered throughout four floors of exhibits, 3D educational films and live programming.

For more information, and to purchase tickets, click here.

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‘Capturing the Cosmos’ astrophotography exhibit coming to Orlando Science Center


ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando Science Center is welcoming a new astrophotography exhibit called “Capturing the Cosmos.”

This exhibit, on display Oct. 29 through Jan. 29, 2023, will feature a selection of cosmic images by Derek Demeter, a renowned astrophotographer and director of the Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College.

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Visitors will be able to see these images in “Fusion: A STEAM Gallery” at Orlando Science Center.

Photos of scenic nightscapes, celestial bodies within space, colorful nebulae and expansive galaxies uniquely shot from Florida will all be featured in this exhibit.

According to a news release from Orlando Science Center, Demeter has been passionate about stargazing since he was a child and his interest in astrophotography stemmed from his college photography courses where he used the school’s telescope to capture a photo of the Orion Nebulae.

“Demeter wants this show to capture the audience’s imagination and unlock a passion for the night sky. He hopes it inspires an appreciation and respect for our night sky and encourages people to preserve our dark spaces for generations to come,” according to the release.

“Capturing the Cosmos” is included with admission, which costs $24 for adults and $18 for kids ages 2 to 11.

For more information or to pre-purchase general admission tickets, click here.

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Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.


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