Dunn organizes stellar photography exhibition

Jun 12th, 2009 | By | Category: Campus News, Issue, June 11, 2009

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Jack Dunn has focused a small grant into a traveling exhibition celebrating the International Year of Astronomy.

Starting this month, an exhibition of 12 celestial images snapped by amateur astro-photographers is touring Nebraska. The exhibition was funded through a $2,000 grant Dunn received from the Nebraska Space Grant Consortium.

“I just wanted to do something a little bit different with one of these mini-grants celebrating the International Year of Astronomy, which is this year,” said Dunn, supervisor of the Mueller Planetarium in the University of Nebraska State Museum. “I knew a number of people who take photographs of celestial objects. And, since the celebration is of Galileo’s looking through a telescope, I thought this exhibit would be a good compliment to that theme.”

Dunn also believed the exhibition would be a way to show the general public that photography of objects in outer space is possible without the Hubble Telescope.

“The average person doesn’t know that amateurs are out there taking these amazing images from home observatories,” Dunn said. “I think it’s interesting to see that these images stack up to anything the Hubble can do. And, they are doing from their own backyards.”

The photos in the exhibit were taken by Taylor Connis, Rick Johnson and Martin Radcliffe.

Connis is a UNL graduate (2008, Bachelor of Science, physics), while Johnson taught accounting at UNL.

Connis said the exhibit is an amateur astro-photographer’s dream come true.

“It is an honor to have my images on display for people from Nebraska and elsewhere to see,” said Connis. “Sometimes with long nights awake at the telescope and the hours spent with the computer pulling the details out of an image can be hard work. While the process is always fun, having the public view my images is very rewarding.”

Connis is a research engineer with the McDonald Observatory of the University of Texas. In the fall, he will enter graduate school, studying astrophysics at the University of Texas. His images in the exhibition were taken from a privately owned observatory on the edge of Lincoln.

Dunn said the images include a variety of stellar objects, including nebula, galaxies, planets and a solar eclipse. The photos are 16 inches by 20 inches or 11 inches by 14 inches to aid in transportation.

“We tried to make it very accessible to the public,” Dunn said. “Each photo in the exhibit is colorful and – at least to me – looks like it could be a piece of art. And, there is an educational element in the labels that go along with the images.”

The exhibition will travel to the Hastings Planetarium, the Nebraska Star Party (a week-long gathering of amateur astronomers at Merrick Reservoir), Wayne State College, Midland Lutheran College and King Middle School in Omaha before returning to UNL.

For more information on the exhibition, go to www.spacelaser.com/.

— Story by Troy Fedderson, University Communications

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