Ohio Astrophotographer Isaac Cruz Wants to Show People the Universe

Astrophotographer Isaac Cruz with the dome and telescope he uses to photograph the cosmos

For the last 25 years, capturing ancient light has been Isaac Cruz’s favorite pastime.

As a seasoned astrophotographer—someone who delights in taking pictures of objects in space—he’s created hundreds of images of comets, planets, galaxies and nebulae: celestial objects whose light can take millions of years to reach Earth. It’sa serious, time-consuming hobby, but Cruz enjoys the privilege of adding his own twist to humanity’s understanding of the universe.

“There are so few people [who] have the opportunity to actually sing the wonders that are in the night sky,” Cruz says. “My joy is to share that.”

The spiral galaxy NGC 7331, located about 40 million light years from Earth in the Pegasus constellation, can be seen in this image from Reynoldsburg astrophotographer Isaac Cruz.

Like many in Columbus’ tight-knit astronomy community, Cruz began his astrophotography career with a simple DSLR camera, collecting photos of the night sky by pointing the device through the eyepiece of a telescope. Yet those early attempts pale in comparison to what he and others in the field can create today.

As technology and astronomy advanced, Cruz’s simple setup evolved into a complex observatory, a solitary glow-in-the-dark outpost set on a private farm in Knox County, rife with equipment like high-resolution cameras and various kinds of imaging processing software. But stars keep odd hours, and to get the perfect shot, Cruz often leaves his home in Reynoldsburg at dusk, returning to his bed only when dawn peeks sleepily over the tired countryside. Considering that humans are unable to see certain kinds of light until processed into visible color, combined with a celestial object’s fickle transit across the sky, some photos have taken anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to construct; others have taken years.

“The image is done when you’re happy with the image,” Cruz says. “In other words, it’s your interpretation of what you actually get.”

A dome and telescope Isaac Cruz on a private farm in Knox County

More recently, his work has gained acclaim in several media outlets, including popular astronomy magazines like Sky & Telescope. Now a retired electrical engineer and a former president of the Columbus Astronomical Society, Cruz imparts his passions to the next generation by mentoring amateur astrophotographers on what instruments might help them perform better and giving them advice on what Cruz describes as “coaxing light out of the dark.”

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