August 8, 2011
By Kayla Green
Robert Arn isn't your typical artist or your typical mathematician either. Arn is a student who spends his days completing his graduate research and his nights under the stars with a camera capturing unique constellations in the most solitary of places.
Robert Arn wasn’t always interested in taking photos of the night sky, or astrophotography, as he calls it. In fact, it wasn’t until he happened to run into a professor at his undergraduate school that he had even heard about it.
“I was looking for my physics professor and went to the observatory. I ended up running into the chair of the math department and another professor, who invited me to an event that night. From there, it just snowballed,” said Arn.
According to Arn, most astrophotography is done with a focus on one object within the night sky. However, Arn prefers to capture multiple objects in order to create a more holistic look.
"By doing nightscapes, I love the fact that I can sort of bring the night sky down to Earth... just show the majesty of the night sky," said Arn. "It wasn't until the end of my junior and beginning of my senior years that I began to focus more on an artistic side of it than the scientific side of it."
For Arn, nightscapes and astrophotography are a unique and rare hobby that allows him the opportunity to learn something new with every image captured. "There are very few people who do astrophotography- probably under 50 in the nation. I would like to spark more interest in it."
And so he does.
In addition to his art and research at Colorado State University, Arn also lectures to varying audiences about astrophotography, including ways to get involved in a cheap and efficient manner.
In fact, Arn even wrote a guide for basic astrophotography as his undergraduate honors thesis. "With nothing more than a basic DSLR camera, lens, and still tripod you can start learn the skills needed for astrophotography."
According to Arn, his main cost is gas, which he uses a lot of. "I usually spend a day or two doing research finding a location. I'll generally use Google maps and topographical maps, and then go to the location during the day before I plan to shoot."
By going to the location in advance, Arn's intent is to scope out a location that will have a clear view of the sky as well as become acquainted with his future surroundings. "When I'm shooting, I can spend anywhere from one minute in the field, setting up and taking it, to seven to eight hours."
But for Arn, it's all worth it. "I just do it, because it's fun. I want to keep it as a hobby."
According to Arn, there are many different astronomy clubs throughout the Front Range, including the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society and the Front Range Astronomical Super Cluster—both of which put on several events throughout the year. Anyone is able to attend and join.