Ever wonder what the bulky white coverings NASA uses on its DSLRs is for? Popular Photography sent the agency some questions regarding its use of the Nikon D2Xs, and found out some interesting details about astronaut photo gear:
The equipment under the thermal blanket is a Nikon SB-800 flash in a custom housing that is used during a spacewalk (EVA). The flash needed a special housing because it will not work properly in the vacuum of space. The housing holds air pressure so that the flash will function properly. There is also a bracket on the bottom (covered with a white thermal blanket) that the camera and flash mount to.
[...] The D2Xs used for flight has the same firmware modifications and a lubricant modification. Other than that it is the same as buying it from the store.
They also state that because of the damage inflicted on the camera sensors by the radiation in space, sometimes the cameras are only used on one mission before too many pixels are destroyed for them to be used again.
Don’t want people using photos of your private island without permission? Watermark it! Billionaire Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan had his name carved into the sand of his island in the Persian Gulf. The giant “HAMAD” is two miles long and half a mile tall, is partially filled with water from the Persian Gulf, and can be clearly seen in photographs of the region capture by satellite. Gives new meaning to the term “watermark”, eh?
As Space Shuttle Atlantis left the International Space Station to head back to Earth for the final time, one of the astronauts on the ISS captured this beautiful image of the shuttle’s glowing re-entry. Any guesses for what shutter speed this was shot at?
NASA created this beautiful time-lapse video with photos taken from Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station. It’s a neat look at the size of the Earth, and includes a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis from space!
A 268-megapixel sensor might suffice for photographing the stars through a telescope, but apparently a sensor many times more powerful is needed for photographing alien planets from space. The European Space Agency has just finished building the largest camera ever to be used in space: a camera over three feet wide with a gigapixel sensor composed of 106 separate CCD sensors. Just to give you an idea of how powerful the camera is: it will be able to measure the width of a strand of hair from over 600 miles away, and the thumbnail of someone standing on the moon. Read more…
Last week we shared about how astronauts left some Nikon DSLR gear to burn up in the atmosphere instead of having it brought back to Earth, but it certainly wasn’t the first time cameras were left in space. Did you know that there are 12 Hasselblad cameras currently sitting on the surface of the moon? The cameras that shot those iconic images of the moon’s surface between 1969 and 1972 were left there to allow for the 25kg of lunar rock samples that were brought back instead. Only the film magazines were brought back.
Amateur astronomy enthusiasts may be content with shooting the stars with a DSLR through a telescope, but what would a consortium of astronomy institutes use for photographing the night sky? The answer is the OmegaCam, a giant 1,700-lb camera found at the heart of the largest telescope designed for visible light surveying: the VST. It uses 32 separate CCD sensors that work together to form a giant 268-megapixel sensor, capturing 30 terabytes worth of photographs every year. The photograph seen above is the first released photo shot with this massive camera.
NASA captured this incredible photograph of the tornado that tracked across Massachusetts last week, showing the storm’s destructiveness as seen from space. The Westfield-Charlton tornado remained on the ground for an hour and ten minutes, carving a 39-mile-long path of destruction into the ground that was half a mile wide at some points.
Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli recently captured some amazing one-of-a-kind photographs of the Space Shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station from about 600 feet away using a Nikon D3x and 24-120mm lens. What’s interesting is the standard practice for returning to Earth: while the memory cards are brought down safely with the astronauts in a descent module, the camera gear is left in the orbital module, which falls into Earth’s atmosphere and burns up!
That’s standard practice for Soyuz re-entries: The astronauts take only what they need and shed the excess baggage to cut down on weight … even if that excess baggage retails for about $8,000, as was the case for the Nikon. [#]
Designer Chris Abbas took a large number of black and white photographs captured on NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn and created this strange and hypnotic video that provides a pretty unique way of looking at space.