Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Jewel Box

As a child in the 1970s, I loved astronomy and space. It wasn't until I was 20, in 1986, that I was able to get a telescope. If you were alive then, and at all interested in what might rain down from above, ;-) you will remember that 1986 was all about Halley Comet fever. So in April 1986 I finally got a telescope - a modest 5" Newtonian - and with my reference materials (a newspaper article on Halley, a planisphere, and a Patrick Moore book on astronomy that I'd had for years) pointed my new treasure eagerly at where Halley was supposed to be.

Amazing! The eyepiece was filled with a glorious shperical burst of light. I couldn't believe what I was seeing:

 I looked harder at the image - interesting that the diffuse cometary halo semed to resolve into individual points of light ... And no sign of a tail, but then I had heard that this visit of Halley was disappointing. What I was seeing was anything but disappointing. But the longer I looked, the less it looked like what a comet was supposed to look like.

Well, eventually I realised that I was a few degrees off, and what I was looking at was Omega Centauri. Wonderful it was! I was looking for this comet, but was the sky really full of unexpected treasures? I started to slew the scope around (in those days, "slew" was something we did by hand) and came across something that literally took my breath away. There was a little pocket of gems in the sky that Aladdin had left behind. A sparkle of red, blue and green (I'm SURE I remmeber green!) stars in a tiny little treasure-chest just below the Southern Cross:

It was the Jewel Box, and it hooked my into the delights of the sky in a way that has lasted a lifetime.

So, nearly 30 years later, when I finally fulfilled a lifetime's ambition and acquired a new telescope and a camera, and after three months of technical bedding in during which I finally got autoguiding working, there was only one object I could possibly photograph. This little box of jewels.

Meade 10" SCT, F/10, with a Canon EOS 60Da. Next time I'll go for it with my focal recucer to F/6.7, which will enhance the sense of this little treasure of gems secretly buried in the deep south of the sky.

10x2' exposures, ISO 800.

Thanks for reading this far in the nostalgic musings of a lifetime star addict :-)

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! This is one of those things I keep saying I will do one day. I live where I do so I can see the stars, after all...