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Stephen Hawking is now an astrophotographer, too

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Beautiful deep space images from a brilliant mind

Stephen Hawking is widely thought to be the smartest person alive, and he has one hell of a resume to back that up: he's an author, a professor, an expert on black holes. He's even had a feature film made about his life, and hasn't been shy about wanting to play a Bond villain himself. Now he can add one more thing to that list: astrophotographer.

Hawking posted a handful of photos to Facebook earlier this week that he captured with his new telescope, an 11-inch Celestron. The model he's using is built for more than just stargazing — it can be hooked up to a laptop and can automatically track objects as they move through our sky. Those features combined with an 11-inch mirror make it possible to capture photos of anything from details of the moon to distant galaxies.

He's already captured examples of both of those and then some. There's this close-up of the Moon:

There's also this view of Orion's nebula:

Then there's a wide-view image he posted that shows the M81 and M82 galaxies. In the hi-res version you can actually see a bright speck that was caused when a cosmic ray struck the CCD sensor.

There are more images to be found at his Facebook page, and it sounds like these images are just the beginning — Hawking says in the post that he's "looking forward to observing Pluto, the Pleiades, and the Andromeda Galaxy in the coming months."

What's even cooler is that you don't have to be the smartest person alive to capture images like these; Hawking's photos are pretty representative of what astrophysicist and writer Ethan Siegel says is possible for anyone to capture in this great how-to guide to astrophotography. It doesn't go into detail about the nuts and bolts using a telescope like the one Hawking has, but it's a great primer for people looking to get into the hobby.