Miguel Gracia, the man from Extremadura who raised his goal to the stars
To portray the galaxies M81 and M82 (colloquially the Bode Nebula and the Cigar Galaxy, respectively), which are almost 12 million light-years from Earth, Miguel Gracia from Extremadura spent almost six hours pointing his camera at these objects celestial. At 22 years old, this marketing and advertising student has found in astrophotography a hobby with which he has fallen in love, through the
social networks, to nearly 140,000 people: «The tweet with my photographs has already been seen by almost seven million people. That means that people like astronomy, so we have to see how to bring it to young people.
to him the hobby
It does not come from his cradle or from a childhood fascination with the sky, but from his interest in photography. “I’m a very curious person, so when astrophotography came my way in October 2020, I decided to give it a try,” he explains. So, he had to take a crash course in astronomy. «I’ve been reading a lot of books and articles for a year, because to photograph the stars you need to have a minimum technical knowledge. Keep in mind that you can’t always capture the image of the celestial body that you want for various reasons. The first is that the Earth is in motion, there are seasons and different seasons. The second conditioning factor is the hemisphere in which you are, so you have to adapt,” he says.
The advantage that he has is that in Cáceres, where he lives, in just twenty minutes by car you reach a “wonderful sky”, with hardly any light pollution. “The comrades from Madrid and Catalonia, for example, they need hours of car to find a suitable place. Currently, there are tracking mounts that you mark the object you want to photograph and point directly towards it. Mine is very basic, so I have to know where the object is first. It is a very traditional method”, he admits. His team, for example, is around 1,500 euros. Technological advances, he acknowledges, have democratized access to these devices and have allowed amateurs like him to try their luck in this branch of photography. “Once I have located what I want to capture, I point the camera, hooked to a telescope, open the shutter as long as possible and take as many photos as I can. Then when you get home, they are all stacked and the final image is the one that is processed and edited. Many people ask me if the colors that appear are real and yes they are, they are formed from the gases that make up the celestial bodies.
For now, Miguel thinks of astrophotography as a relaxing hobby, rather than a way to make a living. “You cannot live off this, although I would like to work in an astrotourism company, right now these routes are booming in Extremadura,” he says. Of course, as a result of his success on social networks, he has already been offered to buy several of his photos and even write a book. «It is very flattering, because many people write to me to share doubts about astronomy. The one that is repeated the most is if I have ever seen a UFO. And not”, he confesses between laughs. Although he enjoys looking at the sky, the young man has his feet on the ground: «This hobby is a cure for humility. When portraying the universe I realize that we are a speck of dust, something ephemeral».