Tuesday, September 16, 2008

For most of recorded history, and even before, mankind measured time by the rotation of the earth. This image shows that rotation in the form of star trails centered around Polaris, the north star. The trails are formed as the earth, and the camera riding on it, spins on its axis under the stars.

This image could not have been made without the use of Photoshop (or other editing program) in that it is a set of twelve ten minute exposures, combined to make this one image. This is an area where film still has an advantage over digital. Digital cameras have significant noise in long exposures, whereas film has no such problem (film does have reciprocity failure however, Google it if you're curious). The limit for my camera, a Canon 20D is between 10 and 15 minutes. 

An artifact of shooting digital is the choppiness of the trails. Since there is a finite delay between each image there are gaps in the trails. Another advantage to film. 

The images which make up this composite were taken at the Black Forest Star Party.

Last April while on a business trip,  I, along with two colleagues, visited Canyon de Chelly in north eastern Arizona. One of the highlights of any visit is a trip to the White House ruins. But to get there you need to cross this stream. We had no problem crossing the stream on the way in. We had a big problem on the way out. 

We had thought we had rented a 4WD SUV. We had not. And it took eight (!) tries to get across the stream and up the bank. The bank is much steeper than it appears in this image and is all soft sand. Our driver, and the guy who rented the SUV, tried six times. Then our guide, all trips inside the canyon require a Navajo guide, took over. This shot is of his second and ultimately successful attempt to get across.

We would later get stuck in the sand and need to get towed out. Fortunately there are Navajo living in the canyon, and our guide happened to know a fellow with a pickup truck and a chain who was passing by.

We were supposed to have a different guide, but the hotel screwed up and over booked trips for the day. So they had to scramble to find us a guide. Lucky for us they found the one they did. And in a curious coincidence, I had visited the canyon on September 2006 on a family trip. My brother  arranged the trip into the canyon. And we had the same guide.    

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunset at the Black Forest Star Party. Those pretty clouds would annoy us until midnight.

This is an image of the milky way in the constellation Cygnus, the swan. The bright blue star in the upper right is Deneb. This image was also made at the Black Forest Star Party. 

You may have noticed that in the previous two images I didn't quite get the focus right, as the stars are bloated. Not so with this image, where I nailed it. Focusing is the hardest thing to do in astrophotography, as the targets are often dim and small. I really like this image, one of the main reasons being the pinpoint stars.

Another image from the Black Forest Star Party. We had two very nice nights of stargazing, and one of rain and clouds. It was nice to go to a star party and actually see stars.

The obvious non-stellar object in the top center of the image is M31, the Andromeda galaxy. This is the most distant object most people can see with their naked eye, albeit from a dark sky sight. This object is approximately 2.5 million light years away and is made up of billions of stars. 

(The link to M31 in  this post and the Zodiacal link in the previous post are to Catching the Light , the site of a fellow astronomy club member and professional sports photographer Jerry Lodriguss. It is well worth a visit.)

I attended the Black Forest Star Party this past weekend, which was held at Cherry Springs Stare Park in Potter County Pennsylvania. This park is the second International dark sky park in the world.

This image is of the zodiacal light, also known as the false dawn. as it points up to the right and merges with our home galaxy the milky way, forming this pyramid of light. The zodiacal light is sunlight scattered off of dust in the solar system. It can only be seen at a very dark site. Sadly, light pollution in the industrialized world has robbed most of us of the night sky and sights such as this. I had to travel over fives hours to reach Cherry Springs, which is one of the few remaining dark sky sights east of the Mississippi river.

The bright white spot in the lower right of the image is the star Sirius shining through the trees. Sirius is the brightest star in our night skies.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

cay |kē; kā|
a low bank or reef of coral, rock, or sand. Compare with key 2 .
ORIGIN late 17th cent.: from Spanish cayo ‘shoal, reef,’ from French quai ‘quay.’

Taken on my trip to the Florida Keys. A very small key. (Ok, a bit of a stretch, but I like the image. And I'm 320 behind with four months to go!)

The turtles remind me of two old men talking. I wonder what they have to say. And if you look close you can see alligator teeth marks on the far turtle. That would be an interesting story.

The distinctive yellow feet of the snowy egret.

A mangrove buckeye with eye spots to confuse predators.

With a touch of blue.

On my first trip to the Everglades I was driving into the park when I saw one of these fly over. I quick pulled over and got my binoculars on it. I then looked it up in my field guide (Sibley's). A wood stork. What was the chance of me seeing a wood stork fly over? Nice.

Well pretty good actually, as I discovered when I pulled into the Royal Palm visitor center. There were a dozen or so in the parking lot! I wasn't in New Jersey any more.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Of a juvenile great blue heron. The lighting is a bit harsh, as this was taken under the bright midday sun. The resulting shadows giving the bird a bit of an angry look. Maybe she was annoyed at all the paparazzi!