Books & Art

These Photos Were Taken From Tarlac Without a Telescope

The wonders of living without light pollution.
IMAGE Donald Nool

Here in the city, you can more or less count on seeing a few stars on a cloudless night. But as it turns out, the brightness of our lights drowns out some of the most spectacular sights the night sky has to offer. Take, for example, this photo of the Orion Nebula which was taken without the aid of a telescope:

Donald Nool took this photo at his hometown of Gerona, Tarlac, using only a DSLR with a telephoto lens. “I don't have enough money to buy a telescope kaya bumili nalang ako ng lens na mahaba. At first mahirap siya gamitin dahil walang VR (Vibration Reduction) pero napagtiyagaan ko,” he says.

Nool is a quality control officer, quality analyst, and chemometrician by day, and an astrophotographer by night. Capturing galaxies without a telescope isn't exactly easy. “It involves a lot of effort, time and patience—iyong kahit lantakan ka na ng mga lamok). I take multiple long exposure shots of one subject at mas pinapataas ko yung light gathering ng camera without star trailing,” he explains. “Mahabang proseso ang astrophotography pero worth it naman.”


As it turns out, the Orion Nebula and Andromeda Galaxy are perfectly visible on a cloudless night, so long as there’s no light pollution. Nool takes his photos from his own backyard, next to the road, or near the ricefields—wherever the sky is clear. The time it takes to shoot one subject ranges from 10 minutes to a couple of hours.

This is because dark sky objects have different apparent magnitudes—that’s a term used to measure the brightness of a celestial object as viewed from Earth. “The highter the magnitude, the longer the camera sensor is exposed for more light,” Nool says. The reason he takes multiple shots is to capture more detail without star trailing. Star trailing is when you capture the movement of a star as the Earth rotates—sort of like capturing the light trails from a speeding car.

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Nool has been fascinated with space ever since he was seven years old, and stargazes almost every night. “Kahit na lagi akong overtime sa work, mas pinipili kong mag-astro kahit pagod ako. Watching the sky is like watching the universe. Nakakalimutan ko ang lahat ng problema sa tuwing pagmamasdan ko ang mga bituin sa langit. Masayang pagmasdan ang kalangitan at alamin ang Science nito.”

To see more of Donald Nool’s photos, check out his Reddit profile.

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