At 46 Billion Pixels, this is the Largest Astronomical Image to Date

Astronomers at the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum (RUB) have incredibly busy these last five years photographing the sky night after night in order to search for objects with variable brightness and in doing so they have compiled this amazing 46 billion pixel photo of the Milky Way making it the largest astronomical image of all time:

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Milky Way viewed at 5 kpx

The Milky Way is so large the astronomers had to subdivide it into 268 sections, photographing each Continue reading

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Easy 10 Step Guide on how to Recreate this Stunning Photo!

Have you seen this wonderful photograph circling various social media in the last 24 hours? It’s a picture of dwarf planet Pluto transiting the face of the Sun, revealing a beautiful hazy blue atmosphere. The minimalist, dark frame has been a hit with scientists, observers and artists alike, not just for the implications this atmosphere may hold for the former planet, but for its eerie, perfect beauty.

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At the Phogotraphy office we pondered on how easy it would be for us to take this image ourselves. What type of rig we’d need, how much forward planning and at what expense? Turns out, it’s pretty simple actually. So ever the givers we’ve decided, exclusively, to share this easy 10-step-how-to-guide on photographing the atmosphere of Pluto. Continue reading

Are Photographers Telling Lies about the Aurora Borealis?

The increasing popularity of aurora photography in recent years has produced some stunning imagery from unlikely latitudes. However all is not as it seems. There are implications for the wider integrity of photography.

We’ve all seen those images over the past few years (popping up in our Facebook feeds or in the media) depicting spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights from Great Britain, Ireland or the lower 48 in the US. Regardless of the location, they’re pretty amazing images. But beneath the wow-factor and thousands of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ lurks a nasty little integrity issue. These aurora images may be photographic eye-candy, but many of them are pure high fructose corn syrup.

Northern Lights as seen from north coast of Ireland in 2004. Fuji Provia 400F with exposure of approx 40 seconds.
Northern Lights as seen from north coast of Ireland in 2004. Fuji Provia 400F with exposure of approx 40 seconds.

The extraordinary progress in digital photography has galvanised a revolution in night-time photography. Only ten or 15 years ago, really good photos of the Aurora Borealis or Milky Way were pretty scarce. A majority of photographers wer Continue reading

NASA Releases Stunning Treble Crescent Moons of Saturn

Have you ever heard how the location of a photograph can automatically give you the WOW factor? Well in Cassini’s case, the far flung spacecraft that’s been exploring Saturn for the best part of a decade has just that. It is absolutely relentless at sending back images home across 80 minutes of Space. Take a look at this universally stunning abstract NASA released on June 22nd.

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Although the image speaks for itself, NASA as usual gives some great scientific details about the supposed conjunction occurring:

The three moons shown here — Titan (3,200 miles or 5,150 kilometers across), Mimas (246 miles or 396 kilometers across), and Rhea (949 miles or 1,527 kilometers across) — show marked contrasts. Titan, the largest moon in this image, appears fuzzy because we only see its cloud layers. And because Titan’s atmosphere refracts light around the moon, its crescent “wraps” just a little further around the moon than it would on an airless body. Rhea (upper left) appears rough because its icy surface is heavily cratered. And a close inspection of Mimas (center bottom), though difficult to see at this scale, shows surface irregularities due to its own violent history.

Cassini is no stranger to mixing science and art. Four years ago Chris Abbas compiled all of the travelling photographic Spacecraft into a masterful time lapse. It’s certainly worth watching again.


Via 500PX ISO. Image credit NASA.

The Speed of Light isn’t so Fast.

Sit back and relax as we prepare to take a journey from the surface of the Sun and through our Solar system at the speed of light. You may want to pop the kettle on though because it’s going to take quite a long time. The Speed of light isn’t all that fast.

We start our journey at the surface of the Sun.

As every school child knows, the speed of light is finite, and although in practical situations it appears instantaneous we are really experiencing everything we see in the past. At just under a 300,000 km per second (that’s about 1.3 seconds to the Moon) the speed photons and other massless particles travel at is intensely slow on a cosmological scale. The incredibly talented Alphonse Swinehart had the wonderful idea of creating an animation showing the actual speed a photon of light travels at after it has left the surface of the Sun. Continue reading

Short Video of Terrifying Moment Astronauts Reenter Earth’s Atmosphere from Inside the Soyuz Capsule

Screencap of Soyuz Capsule Reentry
Screencap of Soyuz Capsule Reentry

During a 17 minute video uploaded to NASA TV’s Youtube channel this week we were privy to the short, but explosive moment that can be seen from the Soyuz capsule window during reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

The terrifying ordeal that every astronaut prepares for is only visible in the video for a brief 10 second moment. The hypnotising loop of colours, sparks, reds and yellows wouldn’t look out of place as a scene in Interstellar, Chris Nolan’s new Space epic.

Gizmodo put together a short Gif so you can experience the moment on loop.

Soyuz Exterior Window During Reentry into Earth’s Atmosphere

Amateur Astronomer Detects Exoplanet using low-end DSLR and $92 Lens

This DIY rig and some free software is all David Schneider needed to detect a known exoplanet.
This DIY rig and some free software is all David Schneider needed to detect a known exoplanet.

Just five years ago NASA launched the Keplar spacecraft into orbit at a cost of $600 million dollars on a quest to search our Milky Way galaxy for signs of exoplanets, or planets orbiting stars other than our own. In November, amateur astronomer David Schneider managed to detect one in his back yard using less than $500 of DSLR equipment. In fact, he didn’t even use a telescope.

Schneider, also a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum like the rest of us thought that only hardcore astronomers using expensive imaging and radio equipment had the tools to detect exoplanets. That was until he came across the KELT-North project by Ohio State university. whereby a group of students who had repurposed a CCD sensor to a high end camera lens and were able to detect several previously known exoplanets. With the amateur astrophotographer in mind, Schneider challenged himself with visualising an exoplanet with standard camera equipment.

Apart from requiring a standard sky tracker mount – An electronic geared system that guides your camera along the equatorial, thereby following the night sky – which would cost anywhere between $100-$1000 the only tools needed for the job were a DSLR camera, tripod and telephoto lens. What makes this even more remarkable is that Schneider used a $72 Nikon lens, with a Canon convertor ring to do the job – Heath Robinson or what?

Schneiders DIY Exoplanet Detecting Kit
Schneiders DIY Exoplanet Detecting Kit

The star chosen in question was HD189733, known to home a massive Jupiter sized planet that orbits the star once every three days. Perfect for this experiment. What Schneider would be looking out for is the transit period, where the planet passes in front of its home star thus causing a dip in brightness. This is known as transit photometry, the most commonly known way to discover exoplanets.

The dip in brightness is unfortunately too insignificant to visualise in a pair of photo frames, not to mention the many variables that would effect any attempt at detection this way, so Schneider downloaded some free software to automatically analyse the different frames taken which revealed, as expected a transit period of about 1 hour and 48 minutes. The data visualised into a photometry chart reveals, with no stretch of the imagination a dip in brightness. We are sure that if the experiment was repeated several times the curve would only get more apparent.

Light Curve Obtained during Exoplanet Transit
Light Curve Obtained during Exoplanet Transit

What I feel is most important about Schneider’s ‘discovery’ is that even though this particular exoplanet is a well known object, it proves that anybody with a camera and just enough knowledge can search for their very own exoplanets. I hope, no, I expect the first completely amateur exoplanet discovery to be made soon and I believe David Schneider will be able to take some credit in that.

h/t Petapixel via Spectrum IEEE