Fond memories of time spent with his dad in the back yard gazing at the night sky prompted Andrew McCarthy to buy his first telescope.
“It was very much a spur-of-the moment purchase,” McCarthy says. “The first thing I did was point it to the brightest object I saw and it happened to be Jupiter. Then I did what any millennial would do in the moment: I took out my cell phone and tried to take a photo.”
The result was not exactly out of this world, but the desire to share what he was seeing with others “led me down a research rabbit hole,” says the self-taught photographer. “Before I knew it, I was getting really good at it.”
McCarthy knew he was onto something special when a 50-panel moon mosaic he shared went viral. “Nobody had ever seen anything like that before,” he says. “I realized I needed to take this seriously if I was going to keep doing it because so many people were watching it.”
His work has received accolades from such esteemed sites as MyModernMet.com, which named one of McCarthy’s images among the best in 2020. And one of his solar images is up for an Astronomy Photographer of the Year award by Royal Museums Greenwich; the winner will be announced in September.
If all this talk makes you want to try a little stargazing yourself, you’re in luck. McCarthy says August is a great month to take in the night’s sky. Some tips: Go out two hours post sunset, try to go during a new moon and get away from the city lights, if possible. “You can see some nebulas, star clusters and galaxies with binoculars or a simple telescope,” he says.
Alternatively, you can follow McCarthy (you and some 425K other people) on Instagram @cosmic_background, where he often goes live, giving followers a behind-the-scenes view of his process and answering questions along the way.