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Exploring space from a backyard in 21Country

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - From his backyard north of Fort Wayne, Neal Bryant looks beyond the stars above 21Country.

By day, he works in the steel industry. By night, he’s an astrophotographer.

“I’ve always had a fascination with space, and bought a telescope in December 2019," Bryant said. "(I) decided to take pictures with it, and opened up that wormhole, and have been going at it ever since.”

Pursuing his childhood interest of space, Bryant began to immerse himself in his hobby.

With hours of practice every night, he quickly learned the challenges of his new craft.

“There’s so much to know, so much to learn -- I knew nothing about astronomy,” he told us. “I knew nothing about photography, I knew nothing about Photoshop. All of those are really important components of astrophotography.”

“When I took my first picture and saw my first deep space object, it was of the dumbbell nebula,” he added. “I knew I wanted more.”

Starting with a consumer camera, Bryant knew to get the pictures he wanted, he’d have to invest some serious cash in the right equipment.

“Now that I decided this was a hobby I was going to stick with, I felt it justified dumping some more money into it, and getting some things more automated,” he said. “I have a busy life. I’ve got three kids, I’m a single dad. My life is go-go-go. I still wanted to have a hobby to keep me grounded.”

The telescope connects to an iPad Bryant operates, which tracks the stars as the earth revolves.

Dozens of pictures and raw data is gathered, which Bryant later compiles and edits into a single photo.

It allows him to remove unnatural artifacts like satellites and light pollution, to create a crystal clear image.

He also uses accessories dew warmers to combat a foggy lens when the temperature drops overnight.

Bryant will spend many summer hours looking at the night sky, alone with only his thoughts.

“A lot of things go through your mind -- it makes you wonder, what is all out there?” he said. “You see a lot of stuff in the sky at night, depending on where you’re at. You get to see meteors, I see satellites every night… it makes you wonder what it’s doing.”

The astrophotographer believes there’s a renewed interest in space, with billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos trying to capitalize, turning it into a tourism opportunity.

“I think it’s kind of electrified everybody’s thirst for knowledge of space,” Bryant explained.

His hobby has required him to learn a little bit about meteorology.

Getting a great photo is highly dependent on very specific conditions.

“There’s three things we look at,” he shared, “cloud cover, transparency, and there’s scene. For all three of those things to line up perfectly is very rare.”

“If they do line up, you probably have a full moon out and then you have to fight moon,” he continued.

Bryant started sharing his photos during the pandemic, hoping those who saw his work would get curious themselves, or at least a mental break from current events.

“I’m not looking to make money on it,” he said. “For me… when I get that first picture that comes back, there’s a feeling that goes through me. It’s exciting to see. It just blows my mind. I makes me want to see more. I want to take pictures of everything I can, share what I can with everybody.”

“Don’t forget about space, always look up when you can,” Bryant concluded. “It’s going away quickly, with light pollution. Even out here, I can only see about 100 stars, where downtown you can only see about five stars.”

“Don’t forget to look up and enjoy what you can see, while you can see it. Because it’s amazing. Absolutely amazing.”

You can see more of Neal Bryant’s work, and follow his astrophotography journey on Facebook and Instagram.

Eastern Veil Nebula
Author Profile Photo

Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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