John Dennehy: Passionate Astrophotographer

Indu Vaddiparti, Contributing Writer

Astrophotography is a type of photography used for capturing images of astronomical objects, or vast parts of the sky. John Dennehy, a senior at Morris Hills High School, has taken a great interest in this field of photography. He has been capturing breathtaking pictures of objects in the sky ever since his parents bought him a telescope for his birthday when he was in the first grade. John says, “I would always look at the moon and Jupiter. I would also look at Saturn sometimes. It just amazed me at what I could see in the night sky.” John always had an attraction to astronomy since he was young.

He was mesmerized by the beauty of the sky and wondered how people took spectacular pictures of objects in the sky. He decided to take his interest further by studying books on astrophotography; this lead him on the path of astrophotography that he is still on. John has taken countless pictures of interesting astronomical objects. John stated, “One time, there was this Venus transit that only happens twice every 113 years. After practice,I ran home and set up my telescope. Just as transit almost slipped behind the trees, I got a picture of it.” John says that capturing the Venus transit was his most memorable astrophotography moment.

John has a couple of favorite pictures.  The most impressive things that he believes he has ever captured were an awe-inspiring picture of a star trail seen from Gifford Field and a perfectly detailed picture of our moon.

John captured many spectacular pictures in the past, but there are also some things that he wants to get pictures of in the future. The one thing that John really wants to capture is the Heart Nebula. The Heart Nebula is located in the Perseus Arm of the Galaxy in the constellation Cassiopeia. It lies thousands of light years away from the earth, and produces a large amount of hydrogen alpha light. The Heart Nebula tends to show up around October, and it is John’s greatest ambition to get a good picture of it.

Not only did John share his thoughts on his time doing astrophotography, but he also gave some input on how all of the magic happens. First, John connects a camera to his telescope. This gives greater magnification so John is able to zoom in on the objects, and take pictures of them. The telescope is like an extended lens connected to the camera. It is engineered to be precise and the mirrors reflect perfectly. John sees the field of the night sky that he is looking at through a finder located on the camera. Then, John begins snapping. He takes up to three-hour exposures of the objects that he is trying to capture. Finally, he produces the picture, and the product is a thrilling image of the object.

John has been doing astrophotography for a while. John says that everything he learned so far was from books written by Jerry Rodriguez. However, he does not consider himself an expert yet. “There is still so much I have to learn.” says John, “But I also think that I am very close to becoming an expert.”

John’s astrophotography hobby has allowed him to continuously look at objects in the sky. He wants to travel to the Andes Mountains in Chile and visit an observatory that is above the clouds, containing massive telescopes. He aspires to be an astronaut in the future, to be able to look at fascinating objects up close in space. He has applied to the United States Air Force Academy. He hopes to get accepted and study aerospace engineering. From there, he hopes to get a job at NASA and apply to become an astronaut. Overall, John has big dreams, and he is living up to them every time he goes out and captures magnificent objects in the sky.