Why UAE is starry-eyed for astrophotography

Engineers, architects, pilots and astrophysicists are among inspiring amateur star gazers meeting every month in UAE. Organiser Anas Albounni tells Vision why we should all be connected to the universe and how to capture the perfect shot

Where does your love of space and astronomy stem from?

I’ve always been fascinated and passionate about it. I mean who wouldn't? Its beauty is literally out of this world, and in cartoons and movies, even in video games, space and science fiction are my favorite topics. It has always fed my curious imagination with mysteries and wonders. When we were young (my younger brother and I) our parents gave us an encyclopedia of many books; each had a certain subject. Space and planets was the one I read over and over again, and when I was asked 'what do you want to become when you are older?' my answer was always: an astronaut. It’s true I didn’t go to space, well… yet, but having the opportunity to bring space to me is definitely the next best thing.

Why are you an Astro photographer? Is it for love of beautiful images or collecting scientific data?

I come from a graphic and photography background so beautiful imagery is definitely an incentive. However, to properly capture the beauty of the universe, plenty of very interesting scientific learning is involved (which is a very healthy mental exercise by the way), so it’s a little bit of both I guess.

Astrophoto 3

I can't really describe the excitement when I laid my eyes for the first time on Jupiter and Saturn through my first tiny telescope. 

Anas Albounni

How can UAE get involved in astrophotography? Do you need specialised equipment?

Examining the work of other astrophotographers, reading about new discoveries and watching documentaries is absolutely great, but doing it yourself takes you to a completely different level of satisfaction. Starting this hobby is not as difficult as it may seem, especially if you join a local astronomy group like ours,  UAE Astronomy Group on Meetup, where you meet and discuss with like minded people in UAE and get all the help you need from the many experts in the group - that’s how I started by the way.

Astrophotography branches into lots of topics, from simply observation to planetary, lunar, solar, wide field and deep space, even study and research, each of which might need a different setup and equipment. If you are going to invest your time and resources in this hobby, then it must be in the right place according to what you are looking for.

 

What is your role in your Astro photography group? 

I’m one of the organisers in the group, which proudly contains members from all around the world and from all professions, from amateur hobbyists, engineers and architects, to amateur and professional photographers, university professors, pilots and astrophysics PhD holders.

Astronomy is usually perceived as something out of reach and almost science fiction, but in our public events we try to change that by introducing astronomy plain and simple. We feed the curiosity that surrounds it, especially to the young, and each year we gain more serious members who instantly fall in love with the subject once they see how accessible it is. This coming season – once it’s a bit cooler – we are planning to organise a few public events from September 23.

What is the most extraordinary scene you have witnessed?

It might not sound like much; it was when I laid my eyes for the first time on Jupiter and Saturn through my first tiny telescope. I can’t really describe the excitement; it's a feeling I have seen many times in people’s eyes when they have their first look, which often turns to screams of joy and excitement.

Astrophoto 5

Astronomy is usually perceived as something out of reach and almost science fiction, but in our public events we try to change that by introducing astronomy plain and simple

Anas Albounni

What is your favourite astronomical fact that everyone should know?

During a star's life and specifically in it’s core, hydrogen is fused into heavier elements by a process called nuclear fusion, that’s where elements like oxygen, carbon and iron are created, which then gets distributed in the universe again after the star dies with a huge explosion called super nova. Hydrogen, oxygen and carbon forms around 93 per cent of our body mass, and iron and oxygen molecules are what gives our blood its red colour, so we are literally made of stars.

If you could live on an alternative planet, what would it be and why?

I would say a planet with rings like Saturn’s and has many moons and maybe two or three suns. I bet it would be a spectacular view, not good for astrophotography though, as there is lots of light. So maybe it would be great only to visit. Earth is good enough for me but as astrophotographers, we would definitely be better off with less light pollution.

the moon