On a mountaintop in Chile is the most powerful digital camera mankind has ever constructed. Called the Dark Energy Camera, the phone booth-sized device shoots 570-megapixel photographs using an array of 62 separate CCD sensors and a 13-foot light-gathering mirror. Planning and building the thing took 120 scientists from 23 international organizations a whopping 8 years.
This past week, the researchers behind the project announced the first fruits of their labor: massive photographs that show patches of the sky 20 times the size of the moon (as seen from Earth). Read more…
When NASA’s Curiosity rover performed its “seven minutes of terror” landing on Mars a couple weeks ago, the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) camera had the task of capturing 1600×1200 (~1.9 megapixel) photographs at a rate of 5 frames per second. The camera began snapping away from when the heatshield separated to a few seconds after the rover touched down. The amazing high-definition video above was created with these photographs, showing what it’s like to fall onto the surface of the red planet. Read more…
What would photographs of the night sky look like if other planets in our solar system replaced the Moon? This beautiful video by 3kingAmazing (remixed using a video by Brad Goodspeed) shows the answer.
There was a much-hyped transit of Venus yesterday in which Venus appeared as a small black circle moving across the face of the sun. This rare phenomenon occurs in pairs of eight years separated by more than a century: the previous transit was in 2004, but the next one won’t occur until 2117. If you missed out, don’t worry — there’s a boatload of beautiful photos and videos out there that can give you an even better view than what your eyes would have seen. The amazing high-definition video above was created using images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Read more…
Canon has announced the new 60Da, a DSLR geared towards astrophotographers and the successor to the 20Da. So what’s different about this camera? A “modified infrared filter and a low-noise sensor with heightened hydrogen-alpha sensitivity” which allows it to capture photos of “‘red hydrogen emission’ nebulae and other cosmic phenomena”:
The improved infrared-blocking filter is a modification suited specifically toward astronomy enthusiasts to achieve a hydrogen-alpha light sensitivity that is approximately three times higher than that of a normal Canon DSLR camera. This produces a 20-percent higher transmittance of Hydrogen Alpha line, or H α wavelength, allowing astronomers to capture crisp, clear images of reddish, diffuse nebulae.
The basic specs remain unchanged from the original 60D: an 18MP APS-C sensor, 9-point AF, and a 3-inch articulated screen. Also included with the camera is a remote controller adapter and an AC adapter kit. Stargazers will be able to snag one later this month for $1,499.
This past Sunday, Jupiter and Venus put on a show by lining up with our moon (a conjunction). Rick Ellis of Toronto, Canada managed to create the awesome photo of the event seen above by capturing 31 separate frames. Each photo was taken 5 minute apart and had an exposure time of 5 seconds.
This photo is what you get when you point a massive 4.1 meter telescope (VISTA in Chile) at an unremarkable patch of night sky and capture six thousand separate exposures that provide an effective “shutter speed” of 55 hours. It’s an image that contains more than 200,000 individual galaxies, each containing countless stars and planets (to put the image into perspective, the famous Hubble Ultra-Deep Field contains “only” around 10,000 galaxies). And get this: this view only shows a tiny 0.004% of the entire sky! Read more…
YouTube user Roy Prol created this fascinating animation that imagines what Earth would be like if our planet had Saturn-like rings. In addition to views from space, he show us beautiful renderings of what the rings would look like in landscape photos captured at famous landmarks (e.g. the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro) around the world.
NASA has released a gigantic catalog of the night sky that contains more than 563 million stars, galaxies, asteroids, planets, and objects. The images were captured by the infrared cameras of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission, which has been collecting data for the past two years. After capturing more than 2.7 million images of the sky, NASA created an epic panorama showing the entire sky by stitching together 18,000 of those images. You can view the panorama in a zoomable browser here or download the 180MP/73.5MB photograph here.
This past Sunday, a group of amateur astronomers in San Antonio, Texas successfully “flashed” the International Space Station with a blue laser and spotlight as it whizzed by overhead. While this might sound like an easy thing to do, it’s much more complicated than you think. Astronaut Don Pettit shot the photo of the experiment seen above, and writes,
This took a number of engineering calculations. Projected beam diameters (assuming the propagation of a Gaussian wave for the laser) and intensity at the target had to be calculated. Tracking space station’s path as it streaked across the sky was another challenge. I used email to communicate with Robert Reeves, one of the association’s members. Considering that it takes a day, maybe more, for a simple exchange of messages (on space station we receive email drops two to three times a day), the whole event took weeks to plan.
The International Space Station maintains an orbital altitude of between 205 and 255 miles, so the fact that Pettit was able to see the flash of light from that distance is quite impressive.