01 Aug 2016
Professional golfer and astronomical imaging enthusiast bags first major title.
It’s not often (though not unprecedented) that golf features in the pages of optics.org, but we’ll make an exception for the astrophotographer Jimmy Walker, winner of the 2016 US PGA championship just played at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey.
Walker, whose composed par-five score at the final hole saw off a fast-finishing Jason Day – also defending champion and currently ranked the world’s number-one golfer – has published dozens of spectacular images of the cosmos, many captured using his own 16-inch reflecting telescope.
The new world number-fifteen golfer was swiftly congratulated on his first “major” tournament victory by UK-headquartered imaging specialist Andor Technology, which says that Walker is a customer of its Californian CCD camera subsidiary Apogee Imaging.
The golfer’s passion for astronomy was the subject of a 2014 article by Helen Ross at www.pgatour.com, who wrote that Walker’s childhood interest in observing planets and stars was rekindled in recent years, after wife Erin bought him a telescope as a Christmas present.
That same article even featured Walker taking a tour of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory, where the seven huge (8.4 meter diameter) mirrors that will eventually make up the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) are being manufactured.
The state-of-the-art mirror lab has since been renamed in honor of local high-tech businessman Richard Caris, a long-time supporter who donated $20 million to support the GMT work. Ground breaking at the GMT’s 8000-ft mountaintop site in Chile took place last November, with excavation and concreting scheduled in 2017 ahead of a planned first light in 2022.
A pro golfer’s time is spent largely on the road and in 2014 Walker signed a sponsorship deal with telescope maker Celestron that allowed him access to the firm’s observatory-grade astronomical equipment installed at a high-altitude dark-sky site in New Mexico.
“The Celestron CGE Pro 1400 HD telescope is placed at a remote location that Walker can access via the Internet,” said the telescope firm. “Whether he's at home in Dallas or at a tour event, Walker can control his telescope and conduct imaging sessions.”
In the Celestron release, Walker said: "As a kid, I remember having a telescope and looking at the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter. My fascination started with looking up. From there, it evolved to attaching a camera and taking long exposures."
• A selection of Walker’s stunning astrophotography images of galaxies, nebulae, comets and more can be viewed at www.darkskywalker.com.
Jimmy Walker discussing astrophotography: