by Brian Lobdell
We live in a changing universe, and few things are changing faster than our conception of it. - Timothy Ferris, "The Whole Shebang"
Reach for the Stars, a PhotoShop creation by BetterPhoto member Cherie Kirks
I have always been fascinated by astronomy, with all the wonder, questions, theories, and just plain beauty of the night skies that surround us in a daily cycle. Thanks to some incredibly specialized fields of photography, we now have breathtaking images for evaluating our universe that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
During my lifetime I have been fortunate to observe some of the awesome phenomena that we can observe here on earth - without telescopes, including some very active and mesmerizing occurrences of the Aurora Borealis, several partial to full eclipses of the sun and moon, as well as meteor showers and a few comets. I could have easily gravitated towards the field of astronomy, but high-end mathematical skills are not my forte. (I do OK with everyday math – “Those donuts cost how much?”) But astronomy research and exploration is 90% complex mathematics in nature, so I’ll stick to my DSLR - and the donuts.
Lone Tree - by Better Photo member Arthur Rosch
Today, our technological advances in the study of our solar system and the galaxies beyond, are providing exciting new answers – and new questions – about our universe. Celestial photography, through complex telescopes and spacecraft cameras play an increasing role in these developing stories. Listed here are five discoveries and events I think you’ll find interesting and even surprising. Do yourself a favor and click on the links furnished with these and get yourself up to speed.
1. The eight planets in our solar system
You may already be aware, that as of a couple of years ago we now count 8 planets in our solar system – not 9. Sorry Pluto, you’re out as an official planet. Come back when you can bulk up and meet the planetary admission requirements. Speaking of Pluto - here are 10 interesting facts about Pluto that might surprise you, including why its been downgraded to a “dwarf planet”.
Eastern Eclipse of our moon, by BetterPhoto member Abdullah Yassen
2. Our shrinking moon
Our moon is shrinking – a revelation just announced this month. Not to worry however, the shrinkage is slow. ( I wish my bank account would shrink as slowly!)
3. Discovery of new solar system similar to ours
The discovery of a distant solar system (127 light years from earth) was just announced this week. It’s the first solar system found with a cluster of 5 to 7 planets resembling our system, including one not much larger than our earth. (Most other discovered planets are behemoths and dwarf our earth, and generally only one or two are found orbiting a common sun.)
4. The Aurora Borealis
This is not anything new, but I can only say if you’ve never seen a display of the Northern Lights, you should seize the opportunity if it ever presents itself in your corner of the world. You might have to stay up late, and drive away from the city, but there’s no light show that can compare. Briefly, this disturbance in the earth’s ionosphere happens when high energy ion particles are thrown out from the sun in a high speed solar wind, and collide with the earth’s magnetic field, reacting with atmospheric gases to form the colors we see as the Northern Lights. One of the better informational sites I’ve seen is posted by The Lynden Lodge of Northern Norway, a location which offers frequent sightings of the Aurora.
aurora by BetterPhoto member Ron LaFleur
5. The Hubble telescope
The Hubble telescope – OK, before you read any further (and know that If you do skip ahead, a rogue asteroid will be coming to ruin your day.) tell me this: How many years has Hubble been orbiting the earth and taking those astonishing pictures?
If you know (or guessed) this year celebrates the 20 year anniversary of Hubble’s launch in 1990, then you’re a smart cookie! (We’ll be naming a distant nebula cluster after you). Hubble has orbited the earth over 100,000 times! Check here for a very interesting history of the Hubble, scheduled to be retired in 2014.
I’m sure you’ll agree, the Hubble images astronomers are collecting are just amazing!. And while we can’t shoot pictures like that from here on the planet, we can do a lot with our individual photographic and artistic skills to capture some of the mystery and wonder of the night skies, like a few more of these awesome photos taken by our BetterPhoto members:
The Great Refractor, Lick Observatory, by BetterPhoto member Allen Hughes
Magnetospheric Magnificence- by BetterPhoto member Gary Minish
Hale Bopp Commet Over Water- By BetterPhoto member Arthur Rosch
Oh and finally, if you happened to see the story circulating about Mars appearing tonight (August 27) the same size in the sky as the full moon, don't rush outside - its a hoax...again! My advice, stay inside with some milk (and a good donut) and check out some more BetterPhoto.com photos like this great candid!
Perception-by Better Photo Member Rachel Barner