Discovering things for yourself is fun (How accidentally photographing sunspots made me realize why I love the night sky).

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I think what I enjoy about photographic the night sky (at least initially) was that I could photograph a large portion of the sky and “discover” things for myself. Sure, they’ve already been discovered. But, as Ken Ham said in the debate with Bill Nye, a lot of science is taken on faith just as religion is. I can agree with this in principle.

Where science vs. religion overlap almost starts and ends there. Scientist can post Hubble photos and use amazing satellites, but even then, people like to dispute the Moon landings. That’s just ignorance. Anyone wanting to poke holes in science and it’s strong theories can put any fears of science to rest if they put the effort in. 

I enjoyed (and still enjoy) taking huge swaths of sky and finding things that weren’t the standard stars. The naked eye leaves a lot to be desired. Suddenly, as I got better, clusters, star clouds, galaxies and nebulas came into shape. Since these are all discovered, I never knew what I was getting out of this.

I reassessed that feeling when I began going through photos I took yesterday evening while using our nifty, homemade trench/Earth grill in the backyard. The Sun was setting and I was disappointed that the clouds I believed would give off an amazing sunset (and make for good pictures) began to get thicker, hazier and lower. Ugh. A grey sunset, right? Wrong.

Very rarely you get these hazy clouds that blocks just enough of the Sun’s glare. Yesterday was one of those times. I could see a dimmer, yet very defined disk of the Sun. I figured this would be cool to photograph and experience.. hell, maybe I’d get a good photo to post on National Geographic? I took the pictures and none seemed too spectacular. I usually put my memory card in my computer before my ass hits the chair. This time it took a day and a little boredom before reluctantly deciding to check them out.

There wasn’t many, but I was flipping through them fast because none of them were even in focus until the last few. Even then, I was upset. Something must have been on the lens. I was seeing specks all over them. Then I thought.. sunspots? Nah.

However, then I stacked the three photos which contained the specks. The Sun was in different spots of the frame in each individual shot so while it appeared those specks moved, it was just an illusion. The specks were all positioned in the same spot.

This didn’t rule out specks so I went to March 18th’s Sun info and various satellite photos and.. my heart flew. Sometimes I have to bend my perception a little and when I do that, I worry that I am willing myself to see something that I just did not capture. But in the first second the photos loaded (satellite/official photos) there was no question. I got them.

Yeah, like I said earlier.. they’re well documented and long ago discovered. But it goes to show how gratifying it is to see it for yourself. For the photo to pass through my own viewfinder and not pass through the hands and eyes of strangers I blindly trust. It is a thrill.. and this was my best explanation as to why it felt that way. Hopefully it will inspire other people to discover things for themselves. The world and the universe are amazing if you just take the time to look.

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