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Photography

A Rare Glimpse of Comet Leonard’s Last Moments Wins the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Contest

September 16, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Disconnection Event” © Gerald Rhemann, Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm, Khomas, Namibia, December 25, 2021. All images © Astronomy Photographer of the Year, shared with permission

The brilliant Comet Leonard put on a mesmerizing performance late last year when it streaked across the sky on Christmas Day. Expelled from the solar system shortly after, the celestial matter captivated photographers around the world during its brief stint of visibility, including Gerald Rhemann who captured the illuminated body as its gas tail disconnected from its nucleus and was swept away by solar wind. The incredibly rare and brief event also garnered Rhemann the top prize in this year’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest.

Hosted by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the 14th-annual competition received more than 3,000 entries from 67 countries. This year’s collection includes a glowing, avian-like aurora over Murmansk Oblast and the International Space Station as it flies over the Apollo 11 moon-landing site—the latter was taken by Andrew McCarthy, whose galactic photos have been featured multiple times on Colossal.

Explore all of the winning images on the contest’s site, and if you’re in London, stop by the National Maritime Museum to see the photos in person through August 13, 2023.

 

“Winged Aurora” © Alexander Stepanenko, Murmansk, Murmansk Oblast, Russia, January 15, 2022

“Stabbing Into the Stars” © Zihui Hu, Nyingchi, Tibet, China, December 24, 2021

“Back to the Spaceship” © Mihail Minkov, Buzludzha, Balkan Mountains, Stara Zagora Province, Bulgaria, August 12, 2021

“The Night Highway” © Filip Hrebenda, Stokksnes Peninsula, Iceland, April 11, 2021

“Moon: Big Mosaic” © Andrea Vanoni, Porto Mantovano, Lombardy, Italy, January 19, 2021

“The International Space Station Transiting Tranquility Base” © Andrew McCarthy, Florence, Arizona, USA, January 19, 2022

“In the Embrace of a Green Lady” © Filip Hrebenda, Hvalnes, Iceland, April 10, 2021

 

 



Photography Science

The James Webb Telescope Captures Jupiter’s Rings and Brilliant Aurora in Two Stunning Composites

August 24, 2022

Grace Ebert

Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team, processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt

It’s been two months since NASA unveiled the first images captured by the exceptionally powerful James Webb Space Telescope, and a pair of new composites taken by the observer’s infrared NIRCam showcase Jupiter’s aurora and unique characteristics in similarly striking detail.

Against a dark backdrop filled with hazy dots that are likely distant galaxies, the wide view features two of the planet’s moons, Amalthea and Adrastea, and its rings. According to the European Space Agency, which released the images, the dusty halos shown are one million times fainter than the gaseous mass they encircle.

For the close-up, astronomers applied three filters to the NIRCam to capture the tiny details of the largest planet in our solar system. Zeroing in on the Jovian atmosphere, the image shows two polar auroras shining through red hues, with brilliant greens and yellows swirling around. “A third filter, mapped to blues, showcases light that is reflected from a deeper main cloud. The Great Red Spot, a famous storm so big it could swallow Earth, appears white in these views, as do other clouds because they are reflecting a lot of sunlight,” the agency says.

Because the human eye can’t see infrared light, scientist Judy Schmidt collaborated with astronomers to make the planet’s details visible. (via Peta Pixel)

 

Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team, processing by Judy Schmidt

 

 



Photography Science

NASA’s Webb Space Telescope Reveals Astounding, Unprecedented Views of the Universe

July 12, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula. All images courtesy of NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope unveiled its first-ever collection of high-resolution color images capturing an exceptional amount of detail about the universe. The instrument reaches deeper into the cosmos than any before.

Launched in December, Webb is the world’s largest and most powerful observer with the ability to view cosmic bodies like the atmospheres of exoplanets, or those outside our solar system, and some of the first galaxies to emerge following the Big Bang 13.5 billion years ago. The telescope is equipped with a host of near-infrared tools that will help visualize galactic phenomena and celestial bodies that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. Webb is capable of getting four times closer to the cosmological event than the Hubble Space Telescope, which helps scientists better understand how the universe has evolved since.

Preparation for the mission began in the 1990s, and the 6.7-ton telescope is currently focused on documenting planetary evolution and spectroscopic data about their chemical makeup, which involves targeting five cosmic objects: the gassy planet WASP-96 b that’s about 1,150 light-years away, the Southern Ring Nebula, Stephan’s Quintet galaxy, the SMACS 0723 galaxy clusters, and the 7,600 light-years away Carina Nebula with enormous stars that dwarf the sun.

 

The very first images include a stunning composite of SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. Rich with glimmering galaxies, the composite comprises “a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground,” administrators said in a statement. There’s also the mesmerizing Southern Ring Nebula, which is comprised of shells of dust and gas released by two dying stars, and Stephen’s Quintet, five glowing galaxies captured in Webb’s largest composite to date, reaching a size that would span approximately one-fifth of the moon’s diameter.

Perhaps the most stunning image from the first release of visuals is that of the star-forming region in the Carina Nebula, which shows what researchers refer to as “cosmic cliffs,” or what appears to be rugged, mountain-like forms that are actually the edges of immense gaseous activity. The tallest pinnacles of that celestial body are about seven light-years high.

Webb was designed to spend the next decade in space, however, a successful launch preserved substantial fuel, and NASA now anticipates a trove of insights about the universe for the next twenty years. Follow its movements with NASA’s tracker, Where is Webb?

 

Southern Ring Nebula (NIRCam Image)

SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago

Left: SMACS 0723 captured by Hubble. Right: SMACS 0723 captured by James Webb

Carina Nebula, detail

 

 



Photography Science

Brilliant Phenomena and Galactic Skies Light Up the 2022 Astronomy Photographer of the Year Shortlist

July 6, 2022

Grace Ebert

An Icelandic Saga by Carl Gallagher

Whether in the form of nebulae or starry galactic expanses, natural light continues to dominate Royal Museums Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition (previously). The 14th annual contest garnered more than 3,000 submissions from 67 countries, and a shortlist of finalists contains stunning shots of a September harvest moon illuminating Glastonbury Tor, the brilliant streaks trailing Comet Leonard, and the vibrant Aurora Borealis casting an ominous glow above a battered ship in Westfjords.

Winning photos will be announced on September 15 with an exhibition opening at the National Maritime Museum on September 17. Until then, peruse the full collection on the Royal Museum Greenwich site.

 

Oregon coast by Marcin Zając

Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) by Lionel Majzik

Equinox Moon and Glastonbury Tor by Hannah Rochford

Solar Wind Power by Esa Pekka Isomursu

Clouds of Hydrogen Gas by Simon Tang

Rosette Nebula Core Region (NGC2244) by Alpha Zhang

Badwater Milky Way by Abhijit Patil

 

 



Photography Science

Brilliant Solar Flares and the Northern Lights Appear in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Shortlist

August 2, 2021

Grace Ebert

“The Magnetic Field of our Active Sun” by Andrew McCarthy. All images courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich, shared with permission

A trippy shot of the psychedelic California Nebula, a panorama of the Milky Way sprawling above French lavender crops, and a phenomenal glimpse of the sun’s magnetic field bursting after a solar flare are a few of the stellar images on the 2021 Astronomy Photographer of the Year shortlist. Hosted by Royal Museums Greenwich for the past 13 years, the annual contest garnered more than 4,5000 images of the green lights of the Aurora, distant nebula, and other galactic sights from entrants in 75 countries. The winner will be announced on September 16 prior to the National Maritime Museum’s exhibition of the works opening on September 18. You can see more of the top photos on the contest site. (via Kottke)

 

“Harmony” by Stefan Liebermann

“Iceland Vortex” by Larryn Rae

“Alien Throne” by Marcin Zajac

“California Dreamin’ NGC 1499” by Terry Hancock

“Milky Way rising over Durdle Door” by Anthony Sullivan

“Break of a New Day” by Nicholas Roemmelt

 

 



Amazing Photography Science

An Enormous Mosaic Spanning 1,250 Hours of Exposure Time Captures the Milky Way in Incredible Detail

March 17, 2021

Grace Ebert

The Tulip nebula. All images © J-P Metsavainio, shared with permission

Twelve years and 1,250 hours of exposure time later, Finnish photographer J-P Metsavainio stitched together a massive, 1.7-gigapixel composite detailing every fiery burst and starry expanse dotting the Milky Way. The stellar mosaic documents the 125-degree stretch between Taurus to Cygnus and is comprised of 234 individual images that extend across 10,000 pixels. Nearly 20 million stars are visible in the expanse.

The ongoing project began in 2009, and Metsavainio knew it would take at least a decade to realize. “As a visual artist, the composition of the image means a lot. During the years, I have shot hundreds of individual targets from the Milky Way. Each image taken is an independent artwork. At the same time, I always kept in my mind the needs of the final large composition,” the photographer said, noting that he captured the more pronounced elements, like supernovae, first before filling in the gaps.

After shooting with relatively short focal length instruments the last few years, Metsavainio plans to use this incredibly high-resolution panorama as a map as he shifts to longer focal length tools in the coming months. Find details on Metsavainio’s entire process, along with specifics on the equipment used, on his site, where you also can find a larger portfolio of his galactic projects. (via PetaPixel)

Update: Metsavainio published a new version that now spans 145 x 22 degrees of sky and is 2.2 gigapixels.

 

The full composite image in mapped colors from the light emitted by ionized elements. Hydrogen = green, sulfur = red, and oxygen = blue. (click to zoom)

The 125-degree stretch from Taurus to Cygnus

Detail of Wolf Rayet Shell around the star WR 134

California Nebulam NGC 1499

Sharpless 124 & the Cocoon Nebula