I finally caught up with my blog postings of past nightscape photos to reach the ones I made this last year. And I have now completed their assembly into a printed photo book.
I didn’t realize when I started this project that the pictures would span 25 years, and that they happened to straddle the transition from film photography to digital. The chronological order reveals the change in technology as I pursued my various night sky targets.
For completeness, I posted the preface and introduction as blog entries, but their real place is in the leading pages of the printed book where all the photos are collected under one cover. I was pleased to be able to give copies of it to my family and close friends this holiday season. Not all of them have coffee tables, but I hope they find a place for it.
Although this marks the end of this particular project, I doubt that I am really done. As mentioned in the epilogue, the capabilities of cameras just keep improving and so I am now excited to start the next 25 years of taking pictures of the night sky!
A photogenic comet visits in a year when the world is shut down by a virus. We can still appreciate its beauty and find an isolated area in a nearby park. Photographing comets has become considerably easier in the twenty years since my previous attempts trying to capture Comet Hale-Bopp on film!
At the end of totality, the moon starts to uncover the sun’s incredibly brilliant photosphere and creates a visual effect called the “diamond ring”. It lasts only a moment, but leaves an remarkably strong emotional impression that may be responsible for why those that witness it, seek it again, at the next total eclipse of the sun.
During the Great American Eclipse, the moon covered the brilliance of the sun’s photosphere, revealing the activity occurring at its surface. Deep red flares of energized gas erupt and eject for thousands of miles, then follow the lines of magnetic force back to the surface.
Only when the moon covers the sun in a total eclipse can its halo be seen. This is the corona, a mystery to astronomers, who only get a glimpse of it for a few minutes during totality. The dot to the lower left is the star Regulus, in the constellation Leo, suddenly visible while the sun is eclipsed.
A “blood moon” is the name given to a total lunar eclipse, due to its reddish color when in the Earth’s shadow. The title “supermoon” is given to a full moon when it is at its closest approach, making it appear a bit larger than average. When a lunar eclipse happens at this perigee, it may be called a super blood moon.
At totality, the moon is entirely inside the shadow of the Earth, although it might not be perfectly centered. The color is a dark orange, but not uniformly so. It is so dim that stars, normally washed out by the moon’s glare, can be seen in the background.
It is rare for Venus to pass in front of the sun and so I assembled telescopes and equipment while Poldi hosted a picnic, inviting family and friends to view an event that won’t happen again for a hundred years. We spent the afternoon and evening watching the silhouette of Venus move slowly across the face of the sun until it dropped behind clouds and trees at sunset .
When the moon, in its monthly travel around Earth, moves across a bright star, it is called an occultation. On this date, the moon is moving toward the bright star Regulus. Here is a superposed series of pictures taken over 1 hour as Regulus apparently “approaches” and then is eclipsed by the moon.
In 2007 a comet passed through our neighborhood and allowed me a chance to try the high dynamic range (HDR) imaging techniques that were being developed at that time. The idea is to combine a range of exposures to get a large range of detail. In this case 10 exposures covering the range from 1 second to 8 minutes are combined, selecting the best tonal information from each. This allows the otherwise obscured ion cloud surrounding the dusty nucleus to become visible as a faint blue-green glow. I was able to use this image as an HDR example in a conference presentation I made on this topic the following week.