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I’m about to become the stupidest man ever to look through a giant telescope. Care to help?

As many of you may have already heard, ‘Vision’, my submission to the Save the James Webb Space Telescope video contest, was voted as the contest’s winner. After all the hard work by the numerous people who helped me with the project(Seb Breton, Bob Mills, Jeff Thistle, and Greg Enright) and those who helped spread the word about it (Jason Major, Callum Sutherland, and all the folks from SaveJWST) it’s very rewarding to see people respond to the piece. Here it is one more time.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khlYq9tuWAs?wmode=transparent]

I won’t lie. Vision was a lot of work. It was an ambitious project considering the timelines I had to work with, especially while keeping the needs of paying clients as my priority. I didn’t even get started on Vision until the contest was well underway, so there were times that I wondered if I should abandon the script I had written and leave it all be. At first I couldn’t find a composer, nor did I have a clue how I’d get the thing animated before the vacation I was scheduled to take. (and am currently on) If it wasn’t for BIGIDEAS songwriter Bob Mill’s enthusiastic donation of their tune ‘Vanishing Point’ early on in the process, I may have given up before I started. Once I had the song, I was able to squint my eyes, grip tightly on the Wacom pen, and get down to work.

But now it’s time to take the nose away from the grindstone, and cast my gaze upwards. Why? Because the prize for the competition is simply amazing; a peek into the heavens never meant for a bonehead designer like me.

“The winner of the whyJWST Video Competition will be granted 1 hour of access to the 2-meter Faulkes Telescope In Hawai’i or Australia to image any celestial object of their choosing. The two telescopes, which cost $8 million each, have some of the most sensitive CCD cameras in the world, and can be operated remotely from a personal computer.” 
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At first when Callum Sutherland, creator of the lovely SaveJWST submission ‘Genesis‘; told me about the prize, I was unsure how much utility I could get out of it, should I be lucky enough to win. I mean, I love astronomy, but I’m no astronomer. Not even an amateur one really. Oh sure, I’ve been out a bunch of times under the stars, armed with some binoculars and a keen sense of wonder, but most of my familiarity with the field has come through books, podcasts, and the occasional audited lecture. Those resources tend to discuss the findings of astronomy, not the techniques by which astronomy is done. Without an astronomer’s skill set, how on earth would I know how to get value out of a serious instrument like the Faulkes?

Then Callum, who lives in the same city as I do, gave me some ideas of which celestial objects he’d look at if he won, and I started to get inspired. Indeed, now that the prize is a reality I’ve invited him over to the house for whenever my time on the ‘scope comes up. I’ve done this partly because I think he deserves the reward as much as I do, but mostly because I need help to work the damn thing!

Faulkespano04

Hopefully together we’ll be able to figure it out, but in the meantime, maybe you can lend some advice! Callum suggested Andromeda, but do you have other suggestions of what to look at? I assume (and pray) that there will be some measure of assistance offered by somebody at Faulkes, but do you have any tips on how to maximize our hour on the instrument? Any good magic advice to ward off cloud cover?

What picture would you like to see? I’m thinking something relatively close so to create a very vibrant image, but you tell me. Any advice is welcome! I’ll post whatever celestial snaps I get here, so check back often!

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