Narrowband Spaghetti

I’ve written many times about the power of looking at different wavelengths of light to study different properties of the universe.  From a visualization standpoint, there are other techniques that give you additional power when imaging.  More than just the wavelength of light you’re using to show the detail, you can choose the range of wavelengths to bring forward certain features while suppressing others. The aptly-named spaghetti nebula, shown above, is a great example of this.  A supernova remnant that covers the constellations Taurus and Auriga, the nebula is very large in the sky, covering three full moons worth (love that unit...

Very Long Exposure Photography

Since diving into astrophotography last year, I’ve discovered that I love the concept of time-lapse, and not just with respect to astronomy.  It’s amazing to see the changes that can occur over long periods of time, and time-lapse photography is a way to record the changes and see how they unfold.  In astronomy the best time-lapses give you a sense of the Earth’s motion through space, show satellites zipping overhead, and show aurora dance along with weather patterns. Large amounts of time with slow incremental changes produce incredible results when it comes to time lapses. Science communication is about how to...

Fake Saturn

I love false-colour images.  They reveal detail that you can’t see in real life, but they also highlight things in an artistic way.  For me it’s an excellent marriage of art and science, and as a communicator it helps me get concepts across in an accessible way.  So when I saw the APOD image of Saturn from earlier this week, I had to discuss it. Saturn never has looked this way, and it never will.  The colours are vivid and unrealistic, but they show the differences in three distinct but close wavelengths of light on the electromagnetic spectrum.  All of...

Flight of the Ionic Phoenix

I’ve spent the last couple of days as a zombie due to the time change, but now that I feel like myself, I’ve got some catch-up posts to do.  The first one has to do with today’s APOD. Can you spot the phoenix shape? It doesn’t mean anything special, it’s just the way our brains see the patterns of light from this gorgeous aurora in Iceland.  Ionization of atmospheric gases from charged solar particles doesn’t sound as glamorous as ‘phoenix aurora,’ but I still appreciate the scientific beauty of it.  Human beings are excellent at pattern recognition, and so we...

The Universe through my Eyes

Let me ask you, when you look at the stars on a cold, clear night, what do you see? Diamonds sparkling? Shapes? I do see those things, but I also see so much more. When I look at the stars, I see a thousand generations of humans looking up in wonder, writing shapes in the dirt and telling incredible stories of brave heroes, ferocious beasts, and important lessons.  I see our common ancestors using the sky to predict the weather, the seasons, and even the coming of the end of the world.  They were looking at a comet in the...

Why Iceland and Norway are on my Bucket List

As someone who is a hobbyist astrophotographer, I’ve got a laundry list of astronomical events to photograph. Nebulas, Galaxies, star clusters, eclipses, and of course, aurorae! Where do the best aurorae happen? Near the north and south poles, so naturally it makes sense to visit those places where there is a bit of civilization, far north or south, with clear skies. The two places that are on my top list, outside of northern regions in my home country of Canada, are Iceland and Norway. Here are some reasons why: The aurora borealis are legendary in these parts of the world....

A Full 360 on Pluto and Charon

As the results from Pluto and its system of moons continues to pour in, we are seeing a lot of scientists keeping busy in excitement as they interpret the data and work to understand the complexities of the recently illuminated dwarf planet.  The fascinating images that have returned have also been interpreted and manipulated in ways that show fascinating features and unexpected views.  A recent rendering shows a complete rotation of Pluto and Charon from images taken by New Horizons. Since it takes Pluto 6 days, 9 hours, and 36 minutes to rotate, New Horizons couldn’t take high resolution images...

A Hunter and Lions

I love living in Canada.  We have skies that can be free of light pollution with only a short trip outside the cities, and vast areas of land where you can really get away and enjoy the majesty of the cosmos.  I occasionally peruse the Canadian made Skynews magazine, and one of my favourite parts is the section where they showcase the work of Canadian astrophotographers.  It gives me hope as an amateur astrophotographer myself to eventually get to that level.  One of the local Astronomy clubs I visited recently is the North York Astronomical Association, a group of amateur astronomers...

Thanksgiving Astrophotography

In the midst of cooked turkey and a plethora of sides, I have been reaping the benefits of clear skies and doing my best to learn the skills of astrophotography.  I spent a good 6 hours from sunset to just past midnight this past Sunday to see what kinds of shots I could get, and document the latest photos and tricks I’ve learned. I’ll start with my latest time lapse video, since that is what I took first.  I started as the sun was about to set, and kept the exposure time very low, along with the ISO.  I also...