Set to a gentle, upbeat track by Moby Gratis, “Moonlight Mojave” spins through the desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park under the glow of a night sky. The timelapse compiles 20-second exposures into a deceptive display of light and movement, with the moon and stars illuminating the arid expanses as if it were daytime. Peeking through the eponymous, shrub-like trees, photographer Gavin Heffernan (previously) captures radiant star trails that streak across the bright blue sky, emphasizing the earth’s usually imperceptible rotation.
The entrancing video is part of the multi-faceted Skyglow project, a collaborative effort between Heffernan, director Harun Mehmedinovic (previously)—he’s behind the documentary Ice on Fire—and the International Dark-Sky Association. Exploring the effects of light pollution on the already fragile planet, Skyglow is comprised of multiple video works like “Moonlight Mojave,” a book and print collection, and a forthcoming feature-length film. You can explore more from the project’s creators on its site.
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In this collection of cosmic photographs, comets, nebulas, and galaxies stretch before the human eye, showering the sky in glittering scenes that ought to be from a telescope. But instead of looking upward into the night, Finnish photographer Juha Tanhua points his camera to the ground. He documents his “oil paintings” in broad daylight, shooting gasoline and oil spills usually found in car parks. “I don’t look up, but down,” he tells Colossal. “It’s not space above us; it’s space under our feet. You can find subjects to photograph even in dull places like parking lots. Expect nothing, get everything.”
The photographer first got his idea for the gasoline puddles when noticing an oil spill next to his car. “It looked a little bit like the northern lights,” he says. He forgot about the image, which he named “Urban Aurora Borealis,” until finding it months later when organizing an archive. After that, when walking around parking lots after heavy rain, he began to notice more leaks and started to document them. He now has hundreds in his collection. “I named them oil paintings,” he says. “Because it looked like artworks under cars.”
Tanhua likens rain to a brush, which “paints the artwork” and is an essential component in ensuring the stains don’t fade in the dry summer. Once captured, he plays with the exposure, editing the highlights, shadows, and contrasts of each image to gain the appearance of galactic matter from a combination of the oil patterns and the ground’s rough texture.“When I shoot against black asphalt and underexpose the image, the rocks on the asphalt turn into stars,” he explains.
Currently living in the small village of Vuolenkoski, near Lahti in Southern Finland, Tanhua obtained his first camera at age 15, when his father gifted him an Olympus 35 DC compact model that he purchased while working in Japan. In 1979, Tanhua began an apprenticeship at a local studio, which launched subsequent careers in journalism and later freelance photography. His works are now included in collections within the Finnish National Gallery and Lahti Art Museum. You can find more of his photos on his website. (via Peta Pixel)
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Brilliant Solar Flares and the Northern Lights Appear in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Shortlist
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)
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An Enormous Mosaic Spanning 1,250 Hours of Exposure Time Captures the Milky Way in Incredible Detail
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.
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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.
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Enhance! Explore the Orion Constellation in Astounding Detail with This 2.5 Gigapixel Image That Took Five Years to Complete
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.
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)
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