Ben (aged 11) Captures the Leo Triplet

Ben (or “Benj” as we call him), up until recently hasn’t expressed a lot of interest in astronomy or astrophotography. But after he sat in on my talk “Above and Beyond Gloucestershire” in Stroud, that changed. Suddenly he was almost mesmerised by what his older brother Sam, his youngest sister Millie, and I were imaging.

Benj is great. He has ADHD, Asperger’s and autism, so his behaviour can be quite challenging at times. Yet, when he came out with me recently wanting to image, he was mindful of not only the equipment itself, but also the fact that it was already quite late and others were asleep. This is a pretty big deal for Benj, who is prone to outbursts at any given moment and likes things to be “just so.”

Originally we were going for Markharian’s Chain in Virgo, but it hadn’t cleared the house and time was getting on. Given that we were using the Canon 60D at 250mm, and how easy the Leo Triplet is to find, we opted for that at ISO 1600 using 1 minute subs with the Star Adventurer.

He’s already successfully captured a couple of moon images, so this is his first deep space object (DSO.)

The approximate area of the Apollo 11 landing site, as captured by Benj with the 72ED and ASI178MC

Seeing his face light up when I showed him the back of camera was absolutely priceless, and is one of those moments that I’ll eternally treasure.

In total Benj captured just under 2hrs worth of exposures, 111 minutes, at ISO 1600. Stacking was done in astropixel processor (or APP) along with darks, flats and bias frames. Although there’s a fair amount of noise in the image, I’m nonetheless extrememly proud of Benj’s achievement with this.

Benji’s first DSO. Ultra proud daddy moment

I believe that with the right support and guidance, those who are on the autistic spectrum can succesfully achieve what they want. To find out more about autism in the UK please visit the website.

Thank you for reading, and clear skies all.

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