Astro Hobby Shows More Than Meets the Eye in Sky; DOUG GILLETT Takes a Look into the Fascinating World of Astronomy

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ASTRONOMY enthusiast John Earl knows the exact distance between the moon and planet Earth, how many moons Jupiter has, and in which direction Uranus spins.

He has counted the number of rings circling Saturn, studied craters and cracks across the moonCOs surface, and observed shifting black spots that dance across the sun.

Earl knows that the moons of Uranus are named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope.

But it is the things he does not know that compel him to huddle over his telescope each night.

There is always more than meets the eye when this amateur astrological photographer casts his gaze towards the night sky.

Each dusk presents a new opportunity to explore the far reaches of our solar system and boldly venture where few men have been before.

A high-powered Celestron Schmidt Cassegrain telescope fitted with a special camera enables him to capture video and images of planets and stars trillions of kilometres away as if he was staring out the window of a space shuttle.

C[pounds sterling]ItCOs hard to really describe the feeling you get.

C[pounds sterling]ItCOs like youCOre a pioneer or something Co like youCOve discovered something and you get a real rush from it,C[yen] he said.

Earl has filled up countless hard drives and computers with raw images and video since the long-time astronomy enthusiast first moved into astro-photography seven years ago.

The interest began when as a young boy his mother gave him a telescope so he could watch the boats anchor in the harbour of his hometown Port Lincoln, in South Australia.

When Earl tired of watching the ships arrive and depart the busy harbour, he focused in his telescope and looked up to the sky.

C[pounds sterling]I remember focusing it on a big star and it happened to be Saturn,C[yen] he said.

C[pounds sterling]And I saw these tiny little rings all around it.

C[pounds sterling]ICOve been hooked ever since.C[yen]

The former SP Exports worker has concentrated increasingly upon the hobby since the company went into receivership.

He says it is amazing how any niggling worries or troubles can be brought into perspective by focusing on the night sky.

C[pounds sterling]This little planet called Earth is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things,C[yen] he said. …