Stars in eyes, sky is limit for this astrophotographer | Lucknow News


When astrophotography began as a hobby for Harshwardhan Pathak three years ago, he had never dreamt that it would get him international recognition.
According to great philosopher Plato, “Astronomy compels the soul to look upward and leads us from this world to another. ” The same rollercoaster journey happened to Harshwardhan (21), who out of curiosity went to the Indira Gandhi Planetarium to have a look at the celestial events using a telescope under the guidance of senior scientific officer Sumit Srivastava. He developed an instant passion and soon became an ace astrophotographer.
Today, this Lucknow lad is making his presence felt in the world of astrophotography as one of his images was recently selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as the picture of the day.
Harshwardhan, who is a science graduate (physics, mathematics, astronomy) student at the Lucknow University and also an amateur astrophotographer associated with the Uttar Pradesh Amateur Astronomers Club(UPAAC), featured as ‘India’s Astrophotographer of the Year 2022′ at APOD, Astronomica, Italy. He also won the HOYS (Hunting Out Bursting Young Stars) citizen science astrophotography competition conducted by Kent University, Australia, and participated in various citizen science projects like ‘NASA asteroid search campaign’ and others.
“My astrophotography journey began at Indira Gandhi Planetarium where workshops on astrophotography were held. I would often visit the planetarium and gradually I picked up an interest in deep-sky objects (DSO) which is an astronomical object that is not an individual star or solar system object (such as the sun, moon, planet, comet and others),” said Harshwardhan.
“Soon, I learnt space image processing on my own through articles on the internet and various videos on YouTube of various astrophotographers around the globe. Indira Gandhi Planetarium supported me a lot by providing the equipment and helping me with image processing which is the main aspect of astrophotography. It reveals the dust and ionized gases after capturing them in different filters, and helps in revealing the beauty of various celestial objects in space,” he adds.
Harshwardhan says that in deep sky, the main issue that he faced was he couldn’t do deep sky imaging from Lucknow’s main city without proper narrowband filters, due to light pollution (emitted from streetlights) which hides the beauty of the night sky.
“We can’t even see stars from the main city. So, what I did was to use a remote astronomical telescope that can be controlled offsite by an observer over the Internet, and is housed in an observatory with an automated system for opening and closing the roof. Allsystems are mechanical and controlled by computer. It’s made available by various astronomical organizations at nominal rates. This helped me a lot to continue my hobby and reveal the beauty of space which is hidden and cannot be viewed by humans on earth,” Harshwardhan adds.
“It was like a dream come true when my image was selected as NASA’s ‘Astronomical Picture of the Day’, where images are sent by astrophotographers from across the globe. It is a very prestigious recognition and a dream of every astrophotographer of every tier. Another image selected in APOD Astronomical, Italy, was the second big success for me in this field,” he says.
After graduation, he plans to pursue post-graduation in physics and conduct research in astrophysics. Buoyed over the achievements of Pathak, Indira Gandhi Planetarium has shared that soon the planetarium will be revamped with hi-tech facilities to nurture young astro-enthusiasts.
“On May 12, 2023, an astronomical photo of Harshwardhan: NGC 7000 (North America Nebula) was awarded Astronomy Picture of the Day by NASA. His second astronomical photo NGC 3372 (Carina Nebula) was also featured in APOD Astronomica, which publishes astronomy photos globally. We are proud of his achievements,” says senior scientific officer Sumit Srivastava of the Indira Gandhi Planetarium.