Evolution of Asteroid Study

Asteroid

On 13 April 2029, asteroid 99942 (heretofore known as Apophis) is estimated to come within 18,300 miles of the Earth. This alarming distance is even more shocking when one takes into consideration that modern geosynchronous satellites orbit the Earth at approximately 26,000 miles. Once the shock has cleared, there is another fact you need to take into consideration: astronomers across the globe are tracking Apophis every day. It is currently labeled as a “0” on the Torino Scale. The Torino Scale is used to categorize the likeness of an asteroid impact on Earth. Read More →

Maximilian Wolf: Photographer of the Heavens

Maximilian Wolf (6/21/1863-10/3/1932) was a German astronomer who pioneered the field of astrophotography. He is also notable for his study of so-called dark nebulae. They were originally thought to be some sort of holes in the sky, though Wolf’s research allowed astronomers to get a better grasp on such an abstract concept. Along with John Brashear, Wolf designed the Bruce double astrograph refractor telescope that was installed at the Landessternwarte Heidelberg-Königstuhl. While previous observations by astronomers had only ever been made by direct methods, Wolf was able to use cameras to plot numerous new objects in the heavens. He took time exposure images of the night sky, and later demonstrated that asteroids could be traced by the presence of short lines in his photographs. Stars were simple points of light.

The red dwarf star named Wolf 359 is in relative proximity to the solar system, and this has made it popular with authors of science fiction. In fact, many people have probably learned about Max Wolf’s work through fiction rather than through fact. On one hand, this has opened generations of minds to the incredible work that he preformed. Unfortunately, it has also caused many people to forget about his work as the Chairman of Astronomy at the University of Heidelberg.

Image Credit: Archiv fur Kunst und Geschichte, Berlin

Getting Started with Astrophotography

Capturing the beauty of the universe presents a serious challenge for even the most experienced photographer.  No matter how beautiful the finished photograph may be, it often pales in comparison to the real thing.  Taking high quality astronomical photographs requires not only excellent general photography skills, but a fine eye, attention to detail, and of course the right equipment. The good news: with a little practice and patience, anyone can learn how to capture celestial bodies in all their glory!

Astrophotography participants range from amateur astronomers taking photographs of the moon, planets, and stars to professional astronomers mapping and documenting the heavens.  Many amateur photographers strive to capture the beauty of the world they see around them. The surrounding sky certainly provides a wealth of photo opportunities. And thanks to technological advances, the cost of equipment have dropped significantly in recent years so this is a great hobby for even the tightest of budgets.

Stuff to Consider

One of the chief challenges of astrophotography is of course, the relative lack of light.  While some celestial objects such as the moon and stars are sufficiently visible to produce quality photographs using basic equipment, other heavenly bodies are simply too gar away to generate much light.  Therefore most astrophotography is dependent upon the use of time exposures to accumulate a sufficient amount of light required.  Those photographers who are unaccustomed to using long exposures will need to do some experimenting in order to find the perfect balance.

Other photographic techniques can also make astrophotography more rewarding.  For instance, most photographers will need to mount their camera to the focal point of their telescopes in order to get a clearer view of the heavens and an accurate representation of what they see when they peer through the glass.  Many quality telescopes come with a camera mount built in, and this is certainly a feature to look for when shopping for a new model.

Special film can also help to capture the stars, moon, etc.  Film photographers can use special emulsions designed for low light conditions, while digital photographers can look for special cameras designed to overcome the challenges of night photography.  When shopping for a new camera, astrophotography buffs should look for models capable of supporting very long exposure times and multiple exposures.  Successful astrophotography can require multiple exposures up to 20 or more, so this is a particularly important feature to look for.

Last but certainly not least, photographers with an eye to the heavens will want to look at the array of filters designed to make astrophotography more rewarding.  Filters designed to reduce fogging and other distortion can make a big difference in the look of the finished photograph.  There are many filters designed for use in astrophotography, and it is a good idea for photographers to test several models in order to find the most effective solution.

The challenges encountered when trying to capture the night sky can vary from place to place, and it is important to choose filters designed to address those issues.  Amateur astronomers in some parts of the country may be troubled by light pollution, while others may live in areas prone to haze, fog and other atmospheric conditions.  Finding a filter designed to address these common problems can make the night sky clearer, and photographing your part of the universe a great deal more enjoyable.

Are you a current astrophotography enthusiast? Feel free to share your tips and insights below!

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Image Credit: astrophotography-tonight.com