Thomas Wright was the first person to work out that the Milky Way was a flattened disc of stars. He studied the skies from this observatory in County Durham, which my mum and dad live next to.
Articles tagged with "astronomy"
I went up onto the roof of the ESO building on a clear evening, and tried a star trail photo. I’d never done one from the city before but I thought it should be possible to do one, with the exposure set so that the buildings were not overexposed but at least some stars showed up. With a 4s exposure at ISO 100, this just about worked. So I took 500 of those and stacked them together, and got some decent trails. There was also someone coming down the trail from Alto del Naranjo to San Carlos de Apoquindo.
The Hell Itch passed. By the time I got on the flight from Houston to Santiago it seemed like an insane dream. During the night, we flew over Nicaragua, and I tried to recognise places I’d been. The Milky Way was bright, and there were thunderstorms flickering on the horizon.
It had been totally clear when I started climbing but clouding over during the morning. By the time I got to the top it was starting to rain. I was going to go to the very highest point, but there was a sign asking people not to, so I didn’t.
I was planning to walk back down again but then it started hailing. Two tourists from New York were there, they had a car and they offered me a lift down. It was a better option than three hours walking in the hail.
In this photo, you can see the glow of lava from the summit crater and also, in the distance, the glow of lava from another lava lake in Pu’u O’o crater.
I spent a lot of my time around Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting since 1983. The lava lake in the summit crater looked awesome at night, and the Milky Way overhead made the crater’s edge a pretty stunning place to be.
The moon rose a bit after midnight. I took a video when it did, and did some post processing to extract the best images from the video sequence and combine those to make this final image.
I went to Roan Jase for a night to do some astrophotography with Julien and Jorge. Conditions were really good, though pretty savagely cold in late autumn, 1000m above sea level.
Trying to get an equatorial mount aligned is tricky. It would be easy enough in the northern hemisphere, where there’s a nice bright star near the celestial pole to target, but in the south there’s no bright pole star and we struggled to get the telescope well aligned. Shining the laser through the guide scope to see where we were pointing was our best technique.
I’d noticed the geostationary satellites a couple of times before on my photographs from Paranal. With this photograph I set out to capture as many as I could and then to identify them. I got a list of all of them, and then worked out the spatial scale of my photo and which direction I was pointing, so that I could work out which point of light was which satellite.
Coffee helps me appreciate the wonders of the universe, and the wonders of the universe help me appreciate my coffee.
A half hour exposure reveals a string of stationary lights over Paranal, strung out roughly along the celestial equator. They are all geostationary satellites, orbiting at an altitude of 36,000 km where it takes exactly 24 hours to orbit the Earth.
The Next Generation Transit Survey is being commissioned at Paranal. It will consists of 12 small telescopes, all operating remotely to search for planets around other stars. I went over there to take some photos as they were preparing for their official first light.
The finest sight of the southern skies. Us poor natives of the northern hemisphere are seriously deprived, restricted to seeing some crappy outer spiral arm of the galaxy while the lucky folk of the south get to look towards the centre.
It’s very dark at Paranal but there’s still background light that we can’t do anything about: the atmosphere itself glows at night. It can be surprisingly bright. Often it’s green, when oxygen atoms are glowing. It can be red, too, when nitrogen is responsible. And it can be orange, when sodium atoms are being excited. Tonight, it was extremely orange, looking a lot like streetlights on clouds, except there were no clouds, and there are definitely no streetlights near here. It got really strong while I was taking a time lapse and you can see huge waves in the upper atmosphere rippling.
The Milky Way is at the right, and the Milky Way’s two satellite galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds, are in the middle of this photograph. There was a lot of airglow to the south west, and just to the right of the Large Magellanic Cloud you can see the distant glow from the town of Taltal.
The beautiful southern Milky Way, shining brightly over the four telescopes of the VLT, and the VST in the distance.