Astrophoto Bucket List

After the eclipse on August 21st, I took a deep breath.  I spent a year focussed on photographing the eclipse, and with that goal complete, what was next?  I was in the plateau of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, a couple dozen miles from Yellowstone, and had three days to enjoy with my fiancee.  As luck would have it, those days were absent of any clouds, giving me two perfect evenings in clear, dark, dry skies to do some of the best astrophotography of my life.  Here’s what I shot. The milky way shot for me is a...

Reflection in a Dark Universe

Like lighthouse beacons in a dark ocean, stars act as tiny islands in the vast universe.  Producing light at the atomic level from the powerful release of energy through fusion, they are the engines that drive the formation of new elements.  But in the darkness there are plenty of other hidden objects that are cold and give off little to no light.  Yet many of them are easily seen.  Here’s Why! The first thing to think about is infrared light, the radiation given off by warm objects.  Large planets and brown dwarf stars are very bright in infrared, much brighter...

Motivation Monday: Routine

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” – Mike Murdock                  This morning was rough.  Getting up at 5am was getting easier.  Even though I was getting up in the dark, there would be a bit of morning twilight to greet me as I left my apartment, and by the time I left the gym, the full brightness of the day had arrived for my drive to work.  I didn’t need to turn on the headlights for the drive, even in the rainy weather. The time change made it tougher.  Suddenly I was up at what my...

More Stuff to Block Galaxies

A few days ago I wrote about a galaxy that was tough to see because of Milky Way field stars.  But our galaxy is far more than just a bunch of stars smattered about.  There is also a huge amount of gas and dust with varying temperatures.  Some of the hotter and more illuminated gas and dust are what make nebulae so lovely in space.  But the cold gas and dark dust that is just out floating in the cold interstellar medium? That stuff gets in the way. A normal image of interacting galaxies M81 and M82 would try to hide the...

1000 Things You Didn’t Know About the Universe #4: Most Stars are Small and Red

Welcome to a new series of posts that will characterize 1000 amazing facts about the Universe.  There is so much out there that we have yet to learn, and every day, astronomers across the globe are using their research to reveal the deepest secrets of the cosmos.  This series will look at the strangest, coolest, most exciting facts that we have discovered in hundreds of years of modern science. Fact #4: Most of the stars in the universe are red dwarfs smaller than our Sun. There is a leap of understanding that happens when a child learns that our Sun...

Galactic Hide and Seek

Remember the big picture of Andromeda that showed 100 Million stars? That image resulted in a ton of new galaxy discoveries.  Most of these new galaxies were once hidden beyond the Andromeda galaxy, but with the super high resolution image, astronomers and the public were able to look straight through and see far more distant objects. Most images of galaxies have what we call ‘field stars’ in them.  These are some of the 400 Billion stars of the Milky Way that are far closer than the galaxy we are imaging.  For this reason, galaxy images tend to look very cluttered...

Curiosity’s Next Step

Inhabited entirely by robots, Mars is the enigmatic planet that is under intense exploration by humanity.  The curiosity rover has been making it’s way closer to Mount Sharp in the Gale Crater, intending to slowly climb the mountain, sampling rocks from different eras in Mars’ history along the way.  One of the last regions to cross before beginning its ascent is the region known as the Bagnold dunes, strange dark features similar to sand dunes on Earth.  Photos from Curiosity show the beauty and detail in the dark features. The dark dunes have very interesting ripple features, similar to those...

When Galaxies Collide

Honestly this could be the name of a new TV show, similar to ‘when buildings collapse,’ or ‘here’s what Kim Kardashian did today.’ I’ll take the colliding galaxies, simply because they can hold my attention longer.  Galaxy collisions are some of the most massive and long term events in the universe.  The result is the formation of billions of stars, the change in orbit of Billions more, and the complete restructuring of a galaxy.  Since we see a snapshot of the Universe whenever we look at a single galaxy, we tend to see collisions happening at all stages of the...

A Great Year of Perseid Meteors!

I’m back from vacation! And what a time it was up north seeing the Perseid meteor shower this year.  With no Moon and the best dark skies I have had all summer, the shower did not disappoint, with at least 50 per hour and perhaps as many as 80 where I was viewing!  I saw a few great shots on Reddit’s Astronomy sub. I didn’t catch any meteors in my photos, and not for lack of trying.  I am still a rookie astrophotographer, so I had some trouble getting the settings right on my camera, even though I spent two...

Dark Skies, New Moon, Meteor Shower, and Thou

It’s that magical time of year once again, the best meteor shower of the year is upon us: The Perseids!  Generally the most reliable meteor shower and the one that most people know about, the August meteors have one of the highest rates, typically anywhere from 50 – 100 meteors per hour.  Its amazing how well known it is considering most people don’t know there are more than nine showers during the year. Either way, this year will be particularly good for a very special reason: It’s a new Moon. The Moon is the enemy of a meteor shower.  Its...