astronomy

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Illustration

Celestial Illustrations by Diana Sudyka Fill a New Book Celebrating 19th Century Astronomer Maria Mitchell

October 11, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

A new book written by Hayley Barrett and illustrated by Diana Sudyka (previously) celebrates the life of pioneering 19th century astronomer Maria Mitchell. Mitchell was America’s first professional female astronomer and taught at Vassar College (which was a women’s college at the time). She also used her platform as an internationally renowned scientist to advance women’s rights and abolition. What Miss Mitchell Saw tells the story of Mitchell’s life, geared toward young readers with lush, star-filled illustrations that intermingle celestial shapes and patterns throughout the story’s earthbound elements.

“I immediately was struck by the beauty of Barrett’s writing, and her deep respect for Maria Mitchell was very apparent,” illustrator Diana Sudyka tells Colossal. “It was also important to me is as a manuscript about the power of observation, and a woman in science at a time when there were very few, and even less being recognized for their contributions.” The artist shares that she didn’t know much about Mitchell at the start of the project, but learned through research how Nantucket whaling culture and the Quaker faith shaped Mitchell’s character and point of view.

Sudyka used india ink, gouache, watercolor, and handmade indigo to build the imagery for What Miss Mitchell Saw. The artist works by hand and in full color from the get-go, and uses some digital techniques at the end of the editing process, once the images are ready to be integrated into the book. To complement the artist’s established aesthetic, which naturally meshed with the storyline, Sudyka tells Colossal that she drew inspiration from scrimshaw (decorative and narrative carvings into whale bones by whalers), as well as Rockwell Kent’s illustrations for an edition of Moby Dick. “The biggest challenge for working on this book was simply finding good reference material to make sure I got the look and feel of Nantucket and that time period right,” Sudyka explains.

In addition to her work as a children’s book illustrator, Sudyka has volunteered at the Field Museum of Natural History’s bird lab for over a decade, and is drawn to science and natural history. You can see more of the artist’s work on Instagram and find prints in her online store. What Miss Mitchell Saw was published last month by Simon and Shuster, and is available on Amazon.

Scrimshaw (resin replica), photo: Diana Sudyka

Scrimshaw (resin replica), photo: Diana Sudyka

Concept sketches by Diana Sudyka, courtesy of the artist

 

 



Photography

Miniature Houses Become Life-Size Desert Dwellings in Samy Al Olabi’s Imaginative Photographs

October 3, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Real and imagined worlds come together in photographer Samy Al Olabi’s nighttime landscapes. Miniature structures like log cabins, light houses, and abandoned ships are set against a backdrop of the United Arab Emirates desert with distant galaxies glimmering in the night sky. Olabi’s lifelong interest in astronomy inspired his professional affinity for astrophotography, along with a sense of wonder and play. The photographer, who is based in Dubai, sets out with an equipment-packed SUV to camp out and shoot his fanciful images on-site. By stitching together multiple photos to get the correct blend of lighting and focus—which he explains in detail on PetaPixel—Olabi’s final images create new visual narratives. See more of the artist’s work on Instagram and Facebook. (via PetaPixel)

 

 



Design

R2-D2 Appears to Sit on a German Hillside Thanks to a University Observatory’s Star Wars-Inspired Makeover

April 1, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Sci-fi superfan Hubert Zitt has given the Zweibrücken Observatory of the Natural Science Association a pop culture-inspired makeover. The paint job, completed in fall 2018, replicates R2-D2’s signature blue and white markings on the already perfectly droid-shaped building. The observatory has become a destination for Star Wars fans who trek up the hill—sometimes in costume—to pay homage and take a photo with the larger than life R2-D2. Zitt, a sci-fi enthusiast, is known for his writing and lecturing on Star Trek in addition to his 20 year professorship in computer science and engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Zweibrücken. (via My Modern Met)

 

 



Photography Science

A Remarkably Colorful Geminid Meteor Streaks Across the Sky in a Singular Astrophotograph by Dean Rowe

January 2, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Colorado-based photographer Dean Rowe recently captured the spectacular sight of a colorful Rainbow Geminid Meteor streaking across the sky during December’s Geminid meteor shower. The image was shared on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day earlier this month, and includes a helpful explanation from a professional astronomer:

The radiant grit cast off by asteroid 3200 Phaethon blazed a path across Earth’s atmosphere longer than 60 times the angular diameter of the Moon. Colors in meteors usually originate from ionized elements released as the meteor disintegrates, with blue-green typically originating from magnesium, calcium radiating violet, and nickel glowing green. Red, however, typically originates from energized nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Rowe, the photographer who documented this ephemeral moment, shares with Colossal that he has been interested in photography and astronomy since his early teens. He built his own telescope at the age of 13 which included grinding and polishing the mirror lens by hand. After a career in software engineering, Rowe has been investing in photography in retirement, with a focus on the wide world of nature. In addition to night and astrophotography, Rowe also frequently photographs hummingbirds in flight. You can see more of his work on his website, where prints are available for purchase, and his Facebook page.

 

 



Design History

An Appliqued Solar System Quilt Used as a Teaching Aid in the Late 19th century

November 29, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

1876 Ellen Harding Baker’s “Solar System” Quilt, via The Smithsonian National Museum of American History

In the late 1800’s, teacher and astronomer Sarah Ellen Harding Baker spent seven years embroidering a star-covered quilt for her classroom in Cedar County, Iowa. In lieu of satellite images, the wool appliquéd quilt was created as a visual aid for her classroom to try to visualize the broad expanse of the universe. The design of the quilt is similar to illustrations in astronomy books of the time. It features a bright sun at its center, with several planets moving around the large star with their own orbiting moons, and Halley’s Comet streaking into the upper lefthand corner.

The piece was finished in 1876, a time when astronomy was presented as an “acceptable” interest for a women. This might have been the reason it was a popular theme for quilts of the time according to The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where the quilt is currently stored. You can find several celestial examples in quilt historian Barbara Brackman’s Solar System Quilt post on her blog Material Culture. (via Open Culture)

 

 



Photography

A Stunning View of the Northern Lights over Iceland Reflected in a Volcanic Crater Lake

March 7, 2017

Christopher Jobson

Last month photographer Sigurdur William camped out at the edge of the Kerid volcanic crater lake in Iceland where he captured this unusual view of the Northern lights and stars reflected on the water’s surface. Located in southern Iceland the Kerid is one of many crater lakes in the area that are frequented by locals and tourists alike, some of which visit through William’s photography tour business ArcticShots. (via Astronomy Picture of the Day)

 

 



Photography

Composite Image of the Moon Taken from 47 Photos Reveals Solar Corona During a Total Solar Eclipse

May 9, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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Shot by Czech photographer Miloslav Druckmüller from the Brno University of Technology, these amazing composite images capture the moon during a total solar eclipse revealing a vast solar corona. To achieve the crystal clear effect the shots are comprised from some 40+ photos taken with two different lenses. Additional clarity was achieved due to the incredibly remote location chosen to view the eclipse from, a pier just outside the Enewetak Radiological Observatory on the Marshall Islands, smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You can see several more images from the project at Druckmüller’s website and don’t miss this much higher resolution version including some 209 stars. All images courtesy the photographer. (via this isn’t happiness)