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...

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...

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...

Which Way is Earth Moving in Space?

Our planet orbits the Sun.  365.25 days to go full circle (ellipse actually) and bring the seasons to Earth.  But the Sun is not really stationary, it’s actually moving through space.  It’s orbiting the center of the Milky Way, along with the rest of the galaxy.  It actually has a periodic motion as it moves around the Galaxy, slowly moving up above the galactic plane then being pulled back down below by the disk stars. Currently, the Sun is moving toward the constellation Hercules at a speed of around 72,000 Km/h.  It is also moving up to the top of the...

Andromeda Unlocks Secrets of Galaxies

Remember that amazing high-def photo of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, from Hubble a few months back? It was able to separate the light from the galaxy into the millions of visible stars that populate its spiral arms.  This image is used for far more than the wow factor of seeing another galaxy up close.  It allows us to study the entire galaxy and gain insights into the lives of spiral galaxies beyond our own, how they formed, how they evolve, and maybe even how they will eventually die. By looking at the spiral arms of M31, where the youngest and...

How Big is the Andromeda Galaxy?

If you have ever seen the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, in the sky or through a telescope, you’ll find it’s reminiscent of a small blurry, fuzzy patch, almost like a cloud. The cloudy look is similar to looking at the hazy white glow of the milky way’s concentrated disk. But that cloudy view is not all of M31.  The galaxy is so far away, around 2.5 Million light years, that you’re only seeing the concentrated light from its central bulge.  You’re actually missing a large portion of the galaxy because its just too dim for your eyes to see. If you can take a...

UV Andromeda

Looking at the universe in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum can reveal features and structures that are invisible to human eyes.  The vast black emptiness of space explodes into a sea of colour when we use cameras to expand our vision.  Looking at a galaxy through human eyes can be a simple and seemingly uninteresting view, but in infrared, microwave, or ultraviolet wavelengths we see the deeper layers of the vast array of stars.  The closest large spiral galaxy and a cousin of our own Milky Way, the Andromeda galaxy, is revealed in ultraviolet. The Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX)...

4.3 Gigabytes and 100 Million Stars in a Single image – Andromeda

When I became a Masters student, a big part of the reason I liked the supervisor I had was that she studied M31: The Andromeda Galaxy.  Since I was young I was obsessed with finding this galaxy in a telescope, and I will never forget when I first found it, seeing photons that had travelled for 2.5 Million years through space, it was my first ever experience with time travel. So its natural that I am excited about a recent Hubble release of the highest resolution photo of the Andromeda Galaxy Ever taken.  Let’s start with a standard shot of...