A group of French amateur astrophotographers called Ciel Austral (“Southern Sky”) have shared a 240-megapixel image of the Large Magellan Cloud (LMC). Constructed using 4,000 images, the seamless collage required over 1,060 hours of exposures. Together, the images form a massive digital poster with colorful explosions and pockets of cosmic dust that resemble watercolors dripped and blown across an inky black surface.
The individual photos that make up the 14,400-pixel-wide image were captured between July 2017 and February 2019 using a 160mm refracting telescope at an observatory in Chile that is owned by the photographers. The colors in the image are not what you would see if you traveled 163,000 light years to get LMC. Ciel Austral used special filters that (based on which elements are present) highlight parts of the visual spectrum. The resulting swirling hues are best appreciated in close-ups like the ones below. To see the full size image in all of its glory, head over to the Ciel Austral website.
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Photographer Andrew McCarthy has transformed 50,000 individual images of the night sky into one very large and detailed photo of the moon. Every crater and lunar mare on the “light” side looks like it was shot from within the natural satellite’s orbit, when the image was actually created from a telescope and two camera setup 239,000 miles away in Sacramento, California.
McCarthy shares that his interest in the cosmos began as a kid when his father showed him the planets through his telescope, but it was a free telescope from Craigslist a few years ago that reignited his love and got him into astrophotography. His process involves focusing and refocusing on bright stars, taking photos in stacks at different exposure lengths, and switching between an astronomy camera and a Sony a7 II with a 300mm lens. He then loads the stacks into Photoshop and uses special software (and a manual process of duplicating, flipping, subtracting, and editing) to align and adjust the images to create the final product. “I’d love a new vantage, as the view from Sacramento is a bit far,” McCarthy tells Colossal. “If given the chance, I would love to be the first professional astrophotographer to image the Earth from the lunar surface.”
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A Remarkably Colorful Geminid Meteor Streaks Across the Sky in a Singular Astrophotograph by Dean Rowe
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.
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