Above & Beyond Gloucestershire

Astrophotography Exhibition

Images of the night sky captured around Gloucestershire

“He who lives in harmony with himself, lives in harmony with the universe.” – Marcus Aerelius

What does “space” mean to you? Does it mean Star Wars and Star Trek movies, vast and epic tales of interstellar conflict and exploration with a few aliens thrown in for good measure? Does it mean Richard Branson not actually making it into space, despite the media storm and publicity around Virgin Galactic? Is it Jeff Bezos riding perhaps the most inappropriate looking rocket devised, and thus securing his immortality in social media history? Is it just the bar on the keyboard, or somewhere to park when you’re shopping? Or does it mean something else? Something more profound…

Jeff Bezos’s New Shepherd rocket. Perhaps the most inappropriate craft ever built. Image credit: Getty Images

Throughout August, we will be exhibiting some of the deep space imagery that I, my partner, and my children, have captured in the night skies over Gloucestershire. This will take place at Felt Cafe in Brimscombe and run for the entire month.

To us, space isn’t just a thousand twinkling diamonds in the night sky, something we barely notice because we’re too busy wrapped up with the routine of the lives we’ve created for ourselves. To us, space is somewhere we call “home.” It’s a place of a hundred thousand wonders of nature, separated by distances so vast that our fragile minds can barely understand and comprehend. It is a place of unrivalled beauty and excitement, but also of serenity. What you see, not just in the night sky, but all around us, comes from the same materials, the same building blocks, not just of life, but of the entire universe. How amazing, how wonderous to know that what went into making YOU, also made the birds, the trees, the living breathing heart of our world.

The Severn Valley at sunset. Spring 2021. © AstroHeartUK Photography

To go further still, they make the mountains, the continents, the planets, the stars, the galaxies, and the entire universe. What we find 2 and half million light years away, we’ll find right here, on our own world. The fires that burn in the heart of a star, burn in our own being. Nature is the lifeforce behind every single thing we see, every single thing we touch and imagine we possess. That is the miracle of creation.

What we find here, 2.5 million light years away, we find on our own world. © AstroHeartUK Photography

Creation didn’t just stop when it created life on our Mother Earth. When you look into deep space and grasp the idea that the distance across the image you’re seeing would take more time to cross using current technology than humanity has existed, then it raises the question of the existence of life beyond earth. All of those stars, all of those systems, and humanity is arrogant enough to believe we’re the only intelligent life? Really?? Nature loves life. You only have to look at the abundance of it on earth to realise and understand that. So why would nature allow it to thrive on just one world? There are a hundred billion stars in our galaxy. And there are a hundred billion galaxies. Space is simply far too vast for us to be “it.” As Carl Sagan said, “absence of evidence, is not evidence of absence.”

To be able to capture all of that is at the very heart, is the essence of what I do. When I’m out at night, I like to sit and contemplate the universe and our place in it. What am I? Who am I? Why am I? What is my purpose among all this majestic splendor? Although I don’t often come up with an answer, it still feels good to be in such a place as to be able to ask these questions, without fear of what the answer might be.

If we ask these questions of ourselves, then we ask them of the universe, and through understanding ourselves, we might better understand the universe, and vice versa. There are no right or wrong answers, only answers that resonate within our spirit. And although we might not always have an answer, it’s also okay to not have them. We’re often driven by “why?” Can we not just accept that we “are” instead? Deep space imaging gives us a lot of time for contemplation, and for the deep inward questioning that our constant, busy everyday lives don’t allow for.

The images that we capture often require many many hours of camera exposure time, sometimes so much time that that can run into many nights, across weeks, months or even years. For example, the image of the Andromeda Galaxy has over seven hours of total exposure time. This was obtained across 5 nights over a 2 year period. After that it needs a lot of time to “process” the image in order to bring out the finer detail. All of this requires perfect weather conditions, fully working equipment and more than a little patience. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted!

We hope you’ll make the time to come along to Felt Cafe during the exhibition, and perhaps share in the deeply personal and profound journey through the timeless depths of space (as well as perhaps some of the best cake I’ve tasted!), and perhaps come away with a sense that there is so much more to life and living than the world we’ve created. Thank you for taking the time to read, and for now, clear skies!

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