Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life.

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

When I say “Time Machine,” it conjures up images of a fantastic, sparking, eerily smoking device with green lights and a fantastic purplish glow that allows you move back and forth through time without any apparent physical harm to your body. That is not what an Astropotamus means when we say “Time Machine.”

The Time Machine in your Head

The simplest Time Machine is your eye. When you look at something, you’re seeing the light reflected off of (or emitted by) that object. Light travels fast but not infinitely fast. If that object is really far away, then that light might have taken seconds, hours, or even millions of years to reach your eye. In essence, you’re looking back in time and seeing the object as it was when that light started its journey to your eye.

Medium Machines

More complicated Time Machines exist as well, but don’t worry – you probably already have some. A pair of binoculars makes an excellent Time Machine! The big front lens on a pair of ‘nocs takes in much more light than your naked eye does – sometimes up to 8-10 times as much light! This makes things much brighter. Plus the smaller lens at the back of the ‘nocs helps focus that light so the image appears both brighter and bigger when the light finally reaches your eyes. A good pair of binoculars is cheap, easy to move around, and you can use it for hours – the perfect Time Machine!

If you want an upgrade, consider a pair of Celestron Skymaster 20×80 binoculars that are designed for night sky viewing. I own a pair of these myself, and have even fitted them with solar filters so I can use them to look safely at the Sun!

A Talent for Time

Of course, more complicated Time Machines exist, and most people call them “telescopes.” These all work in the same way that your binoculars do – the big front lens (or mirror) takes in more light to make dim things brighter, and the little lens at the back focuses and enlarges the final image. They don’t all work the same way but they all share that same basic operating principle. Sometimes, we look through a telescope with an eyepiece. Sometimes we replace the eyepiece with a camera. When we do that, and start taking pictures, it’s called Astrophotography. And here at Astropotamus, we’re all about learning Astrophotography!