Listen to this story:
Doha, Qatar - Among the high beams of traffic rolling along the desert highway; the spotlights streaking upwards from a World Cup stadium across the flyaway; and the lights, dust, exhaust and grill-smoke that Doha and its two million residents are pumping into the air, a telescope in a homemade observatory is pointed towards a brown sky. Despite it all, the stargazer inside, Ajith Everester, is looking for light from much, much farther away.
“When you photograph galaxies that are far - really far, 35 million light years - when you get the first image on your screen, even when I say it, I get goosebumps,” he says.
Ajith, 42, who manages the installation of specialised Japanese pumps for big construction projects by day, started taking astrophotographs in 2017 after six years as a nature photographer. He built his observatory from pencil sketches and bespoke metal parts. Under its dome are a long white telescope on a mount, two computer monitors, piles of equipment and a small mattress. The gear is on: humming, clicking, beeping, whirring, and ever so slowly, turning.
Also on the rooftop: his 11-year-old daughter, her telescope rig, eight satellite dishes and a few air conditioning units.
Ajith looks up, I look up, and she looks into her telescope; I wonder where any stars could possibly be hiding behind that brown sky. Squinting, I can barely see a single one.
He points to it - Orion’s Sword. Look underneath the belt, he says, to the left, the star in the middle: that’s the one he’ll photograph first, because there is a huge, beautiful nebula right in the middle of it that cannot be seen with the naked eye, and he cannot wait to show it to me, even though he’s already seen it a thousand times.