The universe from my driveway


A few weeks ago on a glorious clear night, I went out on my driveway with my DSLR camera fixed with a 135mm lens and took a picture of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The camera was set a f5.6, ISO 1600. I was thrilled with the results! The Frisbee-looking object I caught in the center of the photo is the Andromeda galaxy, the only other galaxy we can see with our naked eyes.
It’s amazing to think that Andromeda is 2.4 million light years away. Think of it: these photons began their journey when humans had not yet even learned to walk upright!
My photo, which shows innumerable stretched out points of starlight, is not perfect by any means. At the same time, it perfectly proves the “500 rule” of time-lapse photography — divide 500 by your lens’ focal length and you get the number of seconds you can leave your aperture open before getting star trails. For my set up, this was 4-5 seconds. But at that duration, I got very little detail. So, I crept up the exposure ladder to 10 seconds and got what I wanted. The stretched-out stars were the price I paid.
I am particularly drawn to the galaxy of Andromeda because the ancient Greek myth of Andromeda is so romantic and almost operatic. She was the daughter of Queen Cassiopeia, who boasted about her daughter’s beauty so much (what hubris!) that Poseidon sent a monster to ravage the Queen’s kingdom. To appease the sea lord, Andromeda was chained to a rock in the sea and left to her fate. The hero Perseus riding the winged horse Pegasus (both names of star constellations), rescued the fair maiden.
When I look up in the northeast night sky, they’re all up there, linked together by the stars and squabbling with one another through eternity. Just like the rest of us!
By the way, if you are interested in locating Andromeda on your own, check out this web link: Even better, come out for one of the regularly scheduled star-gazing parties a small group of us have here in the Meadows. If you’d like to join us, text me at (760) 291-7451 or Steve Rogers at (760) 638-0786.