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...

Polar Asterisms

Have you ever seen the North star, Polaris? It’s decently bright and very close to the North celestial pole.  Lining up with the rotation axis of the Earth, the North celestial pole is the point in the sky that never moves, day or night.  If you know how to find Polaris, it becomes easy to find the cardinal directions and navigate by the stars. And finding it simply requires finding the big dipper, a bright and easily recognizable object.  The same rules apply in the southern hemisphere.  But even though there is no southern star, there is another fantastic object in the South that can guide you to the...

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...

The Big Spider

On the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy, its two major satellites can be seen, the large and small clouds of Magellan.  Both considered irregular galaxies, they are more like swarms of stars, similar to gnats here on Earth.  But even though they lack structure, they are still alive.  The large magellanic cloud contains the single largest active star forming region in the entire local group of galaxies.  This is the Tarantula Nebula. In the core of the tarantula, huge supernova shockwaves blast gas and dust, triggering star formation while forming dense filaments away from the center.  Along the entire...

Constellation Series: Orion

Since the dawn of human history, we have looked up into the night sky and found patterns in the stars.  Some of us saw animals, others saw gods and heroes, but we all agreed that they were greater than our simple existence. In this blog series, we will take a deeper look into the constellations that Astronomers use to map today’s night sky.  We will look into the history of each of the 88 constellations and the stars and objects that form them, to discover more about our culture, and our connection with the universe. Our first constellation on the list is bright, large,...

First Light For Black Hole Observatory

A newly installed instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) has just taken it’s first images, what we call ‘first light’ in the astronomy world.  The instrument, called GRAVITY, uses four different 8m telescopes to perform what we call ‘Baseline Interferometry.’  It is expected that tis is the instrument that will allow humanity to take the first ever direct picture of a black hole. Interferometry is a technique that uses multiple small telescopes all collecting light at a specific wavelength.  These telescopes form a line that we call the baseline.  The combination of these telescopes and...

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...

‘Tis the Season..For the Orion Nebula

It’s that wonderful time of year again, when Halloween passes, and Christmas commercials dictate the airwaves.  I’m still in the tolerant stages of hearing bells ringing in commercials, where they remind me that the northern hemisphere is once again treated to a familiar sight.  The return of the Orion nebula! In reality, it didn’t go anywhere.  Earth’s predictable motion around the Sun means that Northern Hemisphere observers see the sky gradually appear to move a bit further West each night.  This is the time of year when Orion rises around 9pm, making it easily visible by midnight.  I consider midnight...

Red Sprite Captured by the ISS

An unusual Phenomenon known as a Red Sprite has been seen by the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth.  Seen above a lightning storm, it is unknown what causes this rare phenomena of tendril-like lines that extend up into the atmosphere from the lower storm. The Moon is visible near the centre of the frame, and to its right we can see the constellation of Orion above the atmosphere and lights of our comfortable planet Earth.  Along the horizon at the right side of the image is the visible red sprite, occurring quickly during this longer exposure. Amazing...