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Science

Blue Dunes Ripple Across Mars' Surface in a New Infrared Composite from NASA

April 15, 2021

Grace Ebert

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

A striking new image captured by Mars Odyssey is a stark contrast to the rust-colored, rugged landscape that’s synonymous with the Red Planet. Released last week by NASA, the false-color composite—it’s a patchwork captured between December 2002 and November 2004—reveals long dunes surrounding the northern polar cap of the relatively small planet. Warmer areas touched by the sun emit a golden glow, while the chillier parts are tinted blue. The image frames just the dunes carved into a 19-mile swath of land, although the billowing pattern covers an area the size of Texas.

NASA released the infrared image as part of a collection that celebrates the 20th year in service for the orbiter, which currently holds the record as the longest-running spacecraft in history since its launch on April 7, 2001, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It was taken by the Odyssey’s Thermal Emission Imaging System, a tool that’s instrumental in determining the mineral composition of the planet’s surface by documenting temperature changes throughout the day. Since it began exploring two decades ago, the system has transmitted more than one million images of the Martian landscape back to Earth.

 

 



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)

 

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

 

 



Photography

A Stellar Panorama Frames the Milky Way and Other Celestial Bodies Through a Snowy Forest in Poland

February 17, 2021

Grace Ebert

Image © Łukasz Żak, shared with permission

On a cold night at the end of January, astrophotographer Łukasz Żak traveled about 150 kilometers from his home in Wołomin near Warsaw to a rural region in northeastern Poland. Near the village of Siemiony, he ventured into -12 degree cold to snap a remarkable set of images that feature a trio of celestial bodies peeking through snow-heavy spruces. After stitching the individual photographs together, he created this stereographic projection that frames the nebulae of the Milky Way, with one of the brightest stars, Capella, at the center and Orion to the upper right.

Żak shares that the composition was only apparent for an hour before the moon illuminated the sky and marred visibility. He describes the experience:

Being in such places, I already know why winter fairy tales and fairy tales were created…The road runs almost exactly from south to north. Such a trail destination majestically presents the Cosmic hunter in the southern skies, the Mythological Orion. Orion rises above the forest, showing its nebular treasures. A seasoned eye will notice the structures of the winter Milky Way and many other constellations.

You can follow a wide range of Żak’s celestial photographs and projections on Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

 

 



Photography

Stunning Photographs Capture the International Space Station Traveling Across the Sun and Moon

November 6, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Andrew McCarthy, shared with permission

Back in October, Sacramento-based photographer Andrew McCarthy staked out in his backyard to document the International Space Station on one of its trips across the sun. Using two scopes, he successfully captured the image, which frames the station in the upper left corner of the fiery mass.

Two weeks later, he repeated that process: “Yesterday morning after spending hours scouting for the right location, I set up my gear on the side of a road hoping to capture something I’ve never seen before. The ISS, illuminated by daylight, transiting a razor-thin crescent moon,” he writes on Instagram. McCarthy’s endeavor is particularly impressive because when standing on Earth, the ISS passes both celestial bodies in less than a second.

Prints of McCarthy’s stunning photographs are available from Image Kind. He also offers digital wallpapers and updates on his latest projects and celestial happenings on Patreon. (via PetaPixel)

 

 

 



Photography Science

Enhance! Explore the Orion Constellation in Astounding Detail with This 2.5 Gigapixel Image That Took Five Years to Complete

October 28, 2020

Grace Ebert

Full image of “Project Orion.” All images © Matt Harbison, shared with permission

For the past five years, Chattanooga-based astrophotographer Matt Harbison has poured more than 500 hours into capturing the minute details of the Orion constellation, an immense undertaking that’s culminated in a stunning 2.5 gigapixel image. In its entirety, “Project Orion” is composed of 2,508 individual shots meticulously stitched together into a fiery, star-studded mosaic.

In a statement about the monumental project, Harbison writes that his fascination with the neblua began in childhood during camping trips and Boy Scout excursions and later, as he drove to high school and college. Orion “was always there, seemingly inconspicuous.  I have always felt a connection to this cosmic way-finder. Big decisions and events in my life came and went, yet those stars seemed to always find their way into my consciousness,” he says.

 

A close-up of “Project Orion”

Harbison began by photographing Andromeda in 2011 before shifting his focus to Orion in 2013. He traveled from Tennessee to Texas to capture the nebula at various points and often camped out with a group of astrophotographers in ice fishing tents. He explains the lengthy process:

The image posed many problems from the start—balancing differing sky conditions per night, aligning to the same star position each and every night, and meticulously returning to a position just a few thousand pixels North, South, East, or West. Aside from the challenge of software, there were also the continual hardware problems and challenging weather conditions in East Tennessee. Sure, there are some good nights, but there are some not so good nights as well.

After gathering hundreds of individual shots, Harbison realized he needed to update his equipment as the scope of the image grew—for specifics on the telescopes, cameras, and software used, check out this statement. “The project amasses a total of 44 TB across 21 hard drives, 7 laptops, and 3 desktops, with my 4th and final desktop recently completed,” he says.

Now finished, the composite image is available for exploration on Harbison’s site. Follow him on Instagram and YouTube, where he shares his space-centric findings, and check out this video to dive deeper into his process. (via PetaPixel)

 

A close-up of “Project Orion”

A close-up of “Project Orion”

 

 



Art Illustration

The Past, Future, and Playful Collide in Digital Collages by Anonymous Duo Frank Moth

October 14, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Frank Moth, shared with permission

The anonymous pair behind  Frank Moth (previously) characterize their layered digital collages as “nostalgic postcards from the future.” Using vintage photographs, the artistic duo merges retro visuals with natural elements like botanics and outer space to create playful composites that range from futuristic to romantic. “Our work almost always revolves around introspection, soul searching, and universal themes like eternity and human vices,” they share with Colossal.

Based in Veria, Greece, the pair sources images of tropical plants and starry expanses from a variety of sources, including library and museum databases and other photograph-centered websites that offer copyright-free works. “We still have our own huge inventory of images that we have been growing and expanding for many years, after endless digging and searching in databases of very old photos and scanned clippings of old magazines from the 60s and 70s,” they say.

Pick up one of Frank Moth’s prints from Society6, and follow the latest digital assemblages on Instagram and Tumblr.