Archive for the ‘astronomy’ Tag

Life and the Universe II   8 comments

Mount Hood is illuminated by a half-moon with the summer stars above.

Mount Hood is illuminated by a half-moon with the summer stars above.

How did all of this come to be?  I mean everything around us.  Have you looked out into a deep inky-starry sky lately?  Have you tried, actually tried, to comprehend the distances involved, the multitude of galaxies and star systems?  Two things have become obvious:  (1) a multitude of planets exist, many likely to host life; and (2) the universe, in the way it works, is fine-tuned to be friendly towards the emergence of life.   This leads many to the idea that life might not be just an accident.  In thinking about the universe’s ultimate origins, life just might be the one small feature of the universe that is too important to ignore.

Constellations in a Meadow.

Constellations in a Meadow.

To date, physicists have been in charge of figuring out the origin and make-up of the universe.  If you knew any physicists in college, or even since then (highly unlikely), you know how ridiculous that notion is.  Unless the universe is nearly devoid of life, an assumption that is becoming more and more unlikely as time goes on, then we need more than just quantum physicists to answer the ultimate questions.

To begin with, think of it this way.  Our universe is just under 14 billion years old.  That is the quite precisely dated age of the Big Bang.  There is a small chance that this age is in error, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope that the error is 14 billion minus 6000 years!  The universe (and Earth) are ancient, incredibly ancient.  A lot has taken place already.  But there is much much more to come.  All evidence points to this thing going on for a long time to come.  Where are we headed?  That is a question just as important as the origin question, and its answer could help shed light on why we are here.

Pondering one of Earth's possible cradles for life, at Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring.

Pondering one of Earth’s possible cradles for life, at Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.

It’s obvious now that our universe began with a great explosion of space-time itself (the Big Bang) and has been expanding ever since.  The rate of the expansion has apparently not been constant.  It has been speeding up of late, or that is the current best explanation for astronomical observations of stellar explosions in deep space.

I’m taking as a given that we MUST eventually discover how all of this came to be, where it is going, how it will end, and (most importantly) why.  At least we must continue to try.  Those who put their faith in God, in the Bible, the Koran or Book of Mormon, even these people will be enriched if and when we discover the true nature of things.  They might not admit it publicly, but they will be enriched along with the rest of us.

The crescent moon rises in the early morning of Friday the 13th, 2012.

The crescent moon rises in the early morning of Friday the 13th, 2012.

There is nothing in astronomy thus far that contradicts the idea of a creator.  We are having some trouble describing the situation at the precise moment of the Big Bang (we can only describe events AFTER the Big Bang).  But even if we do, hints of higher levels of reality, a Multiverse (see below) means it all could have been set in motion by a creator long before “our” big bang.  Now be honest.  When you read the word “creator”, you had in mind an image.  I’m guessing it was an image derived from childhood religious teachings.  But notice I didn’t capitalize the word.  That’s because a creator, which let’s be honest is not at all required for this universe to have come into being, could indeed be someone entirely different than our traditional image of God.

Little worlds in water droplets at Portland's Rose Garden on a rainy day.

Little worlds in water droplets at Portland’s Rose Garden on a rainy day.

If you know something about quantum theory, you might have heard of virtual particles.  These are actually physical phenomena that pop into being from nothing, and then pop right back out of existence.  In fact, some scientists believe that the universe is speeding up its expansion because of the energy coming from this “restlessness” in the vacuum of space.  If you are willing to skip a lot of quantum physics and general cosmology in between, you can move to the extreme case of a universe popping into being from nothing.  In other words, you may be part of a universe that came into existence from nothing, with no help from anything but the inherent instability of truly empty space.  No creator, or Creator, is required.

The basic problem with applying quantum theory to the universe as a whole is, as it has been for closing on a hundred years now, the difficulty physicists have in applying quantum theory to the world we live in.  The word quantum refers to things so tiny that they’re really little packets of energy rather than things with length and breadth.  Electrons and protons are two examples of quanta.  These are things we will probably never photograph directly (atoms, made up of protons and electrons, have been photographed).

The Milky Way soars over Crater Lake, Oregon.

The Milky Way soars over Crater Lake, Oregon.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that we haven’t had much luck so far taking a theory that describes the world of electrons and protons and applying it to things that are infinitely more huge like a person, let alone something as vast as a universe.  Things like rivers and rocks, elephants and planets, stars and nebulae are, in essence, emergent properties of some underlying reality.  We seem to be stumbling around, using the language of mathematics to look for this underlying reality, and coming up with plenty of possibilities.  All the while physicists have not been able to connect any of the myriad possibilities to what has actually emerged from that reality.

Many attempts have been made to meld the submicroscopic world of energy (the universe right after the Big Bang) with the more familiar and much cooler universe of today.  We have a well-tested theory of beyond-tiny particles, but we need a theory of stars, planets and bacteria. ( Ha!  You thought I was going to say people, but bacteria vastly outnumber us and probably inhabit way more planets than do large animals like us.)

A rare solar corona appears.

A rare solar corona appears.

Einstein, Bohr, Wheeler, Feynman, etc., etc., all very smart scientists, have put forth  ideas that would extend classical quantum mechanics.  But nobody has succeeded in coming up with a well-tested quantum theory of the macroscopic world (a.k.a. quantum theory of gravity).  There are theories in science, and then there are Theories.  Sometimes, when it is pure mathematics behind the idea, they call it a theorem.  Nobody would call relativity, or evolution by natural selection, a theorem, believe me.  This ongoing effort is often called the Quest for the Holy Grail of Physics.

So I’ll leave it there for now.  I won’t say much more about quantum theory per se, though everything from here on out traces back to it.  Instead I’ll jump right on to the idea of multiple universes, or the Multiverse, and how life and the origin of life might fit in.  It would be good for anyone interested in science to get up to speed (layperson’s speed that is) on quantum theory.  I don’t pretend to understand a lick of the mathematics behind it, so don’t ask me too many questions.  But the ideas of entanglement and decoherence, of multiple histories, and even wave function collapse, are all good targets for a bit of googling and (better) actual book-reading.  More to come.

A small stupa in Nepal's Himalayan mountains allows Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike a moment of rest and reflection on the trekking trail.

A small stupa in Nepal’s Himalayan mountains allows Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike a moment of rest and reflection on the trekking trail.

Life and the Universe I   8 comments

Sulfur Springs, a remote thermal area in Yellowstone National Park, reflects the pale light of evening.

Sulfur Springs, a remote thermal area in Yellowstone National Park, reflects the pale light of evening.

How is that for a title?  Perhaps a bit too broad for a blog post, ya think?  I know, I’ll spread it out over 2 or 3 posts, that should do it.

Actually I have been thinking about this subject in a different way off and on for a few years now.  It can be boiled down to this: does the universe show a consciousness?

Several cosmologists out there have written books where this idea is implied if not outright stated.  And these are scientists, so please don’t think I’m off my rocker!   Paul Davies is one scientist who has influenced my thinking.  He wrote a book in 2007 called Cosmic Jackpot where he discusses some of the theories behind modern cosmology, including the idea of the Multiverse.  He doesn’t stop, however, with yet another layman’s explanation of relativity or string theory.  He goes further and tackles quasi-religious “why” questions, such as:

  • Why is the universe so dang perfect for the emergence of life, when it could have been so easily hostile to life?
  • Why are we here, and why are we conscious?
  • Does the Universe itself have a consciousness?  If so, why?
The white mineral terraces at Mammoth in Yellowstone National Park glow under a partial moon and the summer stars.

The white mineral terraces at Mammoth in Yellowstone National Park glow under a partial moon and the summer stars.

Davies isn’t the only cosmologist who is exploring these questions, but most scientists don’t go so far into speculation about the purpose for and meaning of life in this universe. My ideas as summarized in this post aren’t exact copies of Davies’, and they don’t use these cosmological ideas to springboard into fantasy land.  I’m not saying the ideas could not be the basis of a very good, and very bizarre, science fiction novel.  But in a way I am a good little scientist who doesn’t stray too far from what can be tested and established by observation and other lines of evidence.

I think the fact that our universe is so finely tuned to the emergence of life begs to be explained.  I also think that life is too often regarded as a sort of passive feature in the universe.  You have gas clouds, dust, rocks, and other stuff…and oh yeah, you also have life.  I really think it’s possible that it is much more than that.  It is now obvious that life has influenced everything on Earth from climate to the oceans, even minerals (whose incredible diversity on this planet is very likely because of life).

The complex and beautiful symmetry in nature is suggestive of design, but obeys natural laws.

The complex and beautiful symmetry in nature is suggestive of design, but obeys natural laws.

Just one example: a little over two billion years ago the atmosphere was infused with oxygen by micro-organisms who bloomed fantastically in the ancient oceans.  Mostly the changes that life has wrought on Earth have served to make the planet much more hospitable to…you guessed it, life!  In the example above, the oxygen in the atmosphere allowed the evolution of energy-hungry complex life.   Oxygen supplies enormous energy within your body’s cells, much more than any other element could.  There are many other examples; ask any good paleontologist and they’ll tell you.  Is all of this mere coincidence?

Venus passes in front of the Sun, an event that won't be repeated for over 100 years.

Venus passes in front of the Sun, an event that won’t be repeated for over 100 years.

Now Earth is the only model we have thus far to explore the tight inter-relationships between non-living matter, energy and life.  But looking out into the galaxy, we are finding more and more planets that are looking more and more like they might also harbor life.  When you consider the numbers involved, life might actually be quite common in the galaxy, and by extension the entire universe.  If we can find some of the same types of connections between life and the history of the cosmos that we have found on Earth, then we might be looking at something very profound indeed.

You might have heard that in astronomy, time starts with the Big Bang.  Nothing existed before this but a singularity, which takes up no space.  So what happened before the Big Bang?  That question is nonsensical, or unanswerable, or blah blah blah.   This is utter nonsense of course.  We might not be able to answer these questions about our origins right now, but they are certainly legitimate (and very important) scientific questions.  Next lecture you go to where the Big Bang is discussed, make sure and raise your hand to ask the question, what came before?  If the speaker is good, while probably not being able to answer definitively, she will never brush this question off with a lame excuse.

Storm clouds gather.

Storm clouds gather.

If we live in just one of many, perhaps an infinite number, of universes, in other words a Multiverse, then it is impossible to ignore the startling consequences.  And it goes beyond the admittedly bizarre fact that there could be another person virtually identical to you in a parallel universe.  If we are part of a Multiverse and begin to understand how it works, we could discover some mind-blowing things.  We might actually find out in the not-too-distant future how we got here, how all of this got going in the first place, and crucially, WHY.  Why are we here?

The atmosphere is a dynamic place, where interactions between air and energy often create the impression that it's alive.

The atmosphere is a dynamic place, where interactions between air and energy often create the impression that it’s alive.

Never let anybody tell you this isn’t a legitimate scientific question, that it’s outside the purview of science.  But I’ll excuse you for being selective regarding whom you get into a discussion of these matters with.  After all, religion tackles the same sorts of questions, and things can get emotional and personal real quick!  Science and religion mix much like water and oil do, and sometimes they mix more like pure sodium and water!

Next up: let’s dive into some real arm-waving speculation on these questions.  I welcome any and all comments and contributions, no matter how wacky you might think they are.

The moon sets behind the Tetons as the Milky Way soars over Jackson Lake, Wyoming.

The moon sets behind the Tetons as the Milky Way soars over Jackson Lake, Wyoming.

Crater Lake   2 comments

As our state’s only National Park, we in Oregon really cherish this paradise in the southern corner of the state.  Crater Lake is North America’s deepest and one of the world’s clearest lakes.  It is famous for its deep blue color, its clarity, and its geologic background.  When John Hilman became the first white explorer to see it in 1853, he was astounded, calling it a very deep, blue lake.   For me, it seemed past time to re-explore Crater Lake during the summer-time, when it is most accessible.  My last visit a year and a half ago was during the depths of winter, when cross-country skis and snowshoes are the only mode of transport.  I spent three days there last week.

Crater Lake in southern Oregon was described by the first white person to see it as a “deep blue lake”.

Crater Lake is about 6 miles across and almost 2000 feet (600 meters) deep.  What makes it such an awesome and unique lake is that it lies within the throat of a big collapsed volcano, a caldera, which suffered its climactic eruption about 7000 years ago.  It is not technically a volcanic crater, which is the word geologists apply to the hole in the top of a volcano created when the volcano explodes and ejects material out over the countryside.  Geologists figure that the original volcano, which is called Mount Mazama, was over 12,000 feet (3600 meters) high and quite massive.

The Phantom Ship, a small island in Crater Lake, Oregon, is so called because in certain light conditions it seems to disappear.

Calderas are generally larger than craters, and are created when the volcano erupts magma from beneath its summit, leaving a void underneath which leads to a massive and catastrophic collapse of the summit area.  Caldera eruptions can be large, and they can be enormous!  They are almost never modest in size.  They are this planet’s biggest volcanic eruptions.  And speaking of volcanoes and National Parks, Yellowstone (the world’s oldest park) is occupied by what is probably the world’s largest active caldera.  It could erupt any year now (or it could take 10,000 more years!), and with devastating consequences.

In Crater Lake’s case, rain and snowmelt (mostly snow) filled the caldera over the period of a few hundred years, and now evaporation is balanced with precipitation so that the water level never fluctuates by much (it’s varied only about 16 feet (10 meters) over the last 100 years.  There are no streams leading into or out of the lake.  The rim of the caldera, where most visitors congregate, is at an elevation of over 7000 feet (2000 meters), and at this latitude, and next to the moist North Pacific, that means major snowfall – 40 or more feet (13 meters) every winter.

One of America’s most scenic roads follows the treeline rim around, with numerous pull-offs.  So like most American National Parks, one can certainly experience “overlook fatigue”.  But probably not as much as some (Blue Ridge Parkway & Bryce Canyon spring to mind).

It is at least 1000 feet (300 meters) down to the lake from the rim, and it is so steep that only in one spot is it possible to hike down to it.  Here is your cure for overlook fatigue.  Hike down to Cleetwood Cove, and take a scenic boat cruise out to the largest island in the lake, a volcanic cinder cone known as Wizard Island.  Here you can swim in the cold lake and hike to the summit of the cone, spending hours on the island.  There are also numerous hikes from spots along the rim, including The Watchman and Mount Scott.

I came here to reconnect with one of my favorite National Parks, and to try for some great shots of the stars over the lake (later post).   The park is unlike the popular National Parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite and Great Smokies.  There are few policemen posing as rangers here, so you can pretty much do your own thing and not be hassled.  For example, I rode my motorcycle there, arriving at night after one night spent near McKenzie Pass, a stunning spot in its own right.

Once inside the park, I parked at a picnic area and walked up to a level spot on the rim to pitch my tent.  I had to find a site screened from the road below, but otherwise had no worries about rangers prowling the roads at night, hoping to catch scofflaws like me camping illegally.  I had a stunning view out over the lake, as the Milky Way soared above.  Then at dawn, I woke to take pictures of  sunrise over the vast expanse of blue water below.  Coffee was conveniently taken at the picnic area where I parked the bike.

I left my tent there for the next two nights, sleeping as late as I wanted with only hawks for company.  I was on the quiet north rim, well away the park’s only real concentration of people (at Rim Village on the south side of the lake).  There is one large campground a few miles below Rim Village, called Mazama.  This is where RVers go, and where most official campsites in the park are.  There is also a small, tent-only campground at Lost Creek, in the southeastern corner of the park.  But since there are only 16 sites, it always fills early in the day.  It is worth trying for this camp first, and if that fails, going to Mazama (which can also fill, even during the week).

Wildflowers at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, include pink monkeyflower.

I did one major hike and a few smaller ones.  I hiked to the top of Mount Scott, the highest peak in the park.  At almost 9000 feet, it was the only remaining major Cascades peak in Oregon that I had not yet climbed.  Some of my climbs have been technical, some (like Scott here) just hikes.  But I have been longing to return to Crater Lake in summer for no other reason than to finish my quest.  Now it is time to finish the rest of the Cascades, a few in Washington and one in Canada.  Wildflowers and some friendly fellow-hikers were my reward.  The view was rather hazy because of fires in the region.

On my last full day at Crater Lake the smoke cleared in late afternoon and I was able to get some nice shots of a small island called Phantom Ship in late-day light (image above).  Then I ate a picnic dinner, lay back and watched the stars come out one by one.  I finally jumped on my bike and rounded the lake to a point where the Milky Way was perfectly placed.  There I spent a couple hours shooting long exposures, stars over the lake with a starkly beautiful whitebark pine snag for foreground.

Hiking up to my campsite on the rim at about 1 a.m. I fell immediately into a deep sleep.  Utter peace for this moment in my life, atop a giant volcano that had its day of great thunder long ago, and now lies also in deep slumber, beneath the deep & cold, clear-blue waters of Crater Lake!














Sunset over Crater Lake from the highest point on the rim, Cloud Cap.

Star Gazing   4 comments

I went star gazing last night.  It was the first time in a long time I looked through my telescope, a rather sad admission to make.  The weather was clear and warm in the late afternoon, and so I loaded the van with my 8-inch Newtonian telescope, a cooler with drinks and snacks, and my photography gear.  Oh, and my dog came with.  This post will have a few photos, but I have already published several of my good ones in my post “Moonlight”.  Check that one out.

Mount Hood and the rising half moon from the summit of Larch Mountain in Oregon.

I had a good little time up on Larch Mountain, which is the closest place to my home where the stars are fairly bright.  It’s about 40 minutes away, on top of a 4000-foot mountain, and has a view of Mount Hood.  I had a nice time up there, but it only whetted my appetite, and now I have to get way out there to try for really nice photos.  Crater Lake is calling, as well as Mt Rainier.  I also am so hoping the Sun sends us another present; i.e., a big solar flare that causes aurorae at low latitudes.  It did this a few weeks ago, and I messed up big time not getting out to see it.  The Sun is active right now, and we get a few days notice of events, so I’m watching NASA’s website and keeping my fingers crossed.

I used to teach, and during that time I got into astronomy big time.  I bought the telescope, learned my way around the sky, and even became well-versed in astronomical principles (I had to because I taught a high school astro. class).  I spent a couple seasons at an outdoor school in what is probably Oregon’s best dark sky region, Wheeler County in the unpopulated eastern part of the state.  There, as an instructor, I had access to very good telescopes, and ran astronomy camps and classes.  Most importantly, the night sky was so spectacular that you could sometimes see your shadow on the ground.  And this was not from the moon, but from the Milky Way alone!

Now as a photographer I’ve been playing around with starscape photography.  This is normally defined as photos of the stars, aurora, etc. but with portions of the earthly landscape included.  Pictures of the stars and planets with no landscape?  That’s called astrophotography, something I also played about with during my teaching time.

I went but astrophotography is a one of those things that requires commitment in order to obtain excellent results (and excellent results are all I go for).  You need not only plenty of time and education on techniques and software, but you’ll need to buy a very expensive telescope (actually it’s the mount that is most expensive) plus a CCD camera.  All of this said, you can get pretty stunning astrophotographs with a simple “go-to” telescope of roughly half a thousand dollars, plus a digital videocam or digital camera with mount.

An eastern Oregon starscape features Venus and, on the horizon, Mercury. Several constellations are also visible, such as Orion the Hunter at left. The bright star peeking out of the clouds on the left is Sirius, the northern hemisphere’s brightest.

For starscape photography, you only need your digital camera (DSLR is preferred), a solid tripod and as fast a lens as you can afford.  An f/2.8 lens or faster will make a big difference, though you can start with an f/4 lens.  A wide-angle lens is almost a must as well, something on the order of 24mm or wider.  This setup will allow you to get star trails (those photos of many circles or arcs of light you see) as well as images of pinpoint stars (which I prefer).  With a timer remote, you can set up to take a time-lapse, which is very popular right now (I’m not too impressed with them though).

But you need to remember this: the stars (and planets, moon, sun) appear to move across the sky.  The earth, as everyone knows, rotates on its axis.  This means that you and your tripod and camera are always moving under the stars.   And so your long-exposure images have the potential to smear out or arc the stars, while the landscape below remains perfectly sharp (it’s moving too).  So here are some general considerations:

  • In addition to the above camera-related gear, you’ll need a flashlight (or two).  For seeing what you’re doing, you need a red flashlight.  Your night vision is super important to maintain, and a white light will reset your eyes so that you need to wait a half hour or more to get back your night vision.  Look at astro forums or you can get red cellophane from a party store and tape 4 or 5 layers of it over your regular flashlight.  Bring another light (with other colored cellophane?) for light painting.
  • Learn about the night sky.  As with any photography, the more you know about your subject, the better your pictures.  Get a star chart and take it out with a red flashlight to get familiar with constellations and how they move through the sky.  Bring binoculars (or telescope) to get a close look at what you are photographing.
  • Find the darkest and clearest sky you can get to, well away from light pollution.  You simply have many more options if the night sky is pristine.
  • Regarding the landscape,  strong elements like a fascinating old building or monument, a (very) interesting tree or rock, or a spectacular mountain range are all worth considering.  In my opinion, star trails only work well if the foreground is very striking, and should not be used more than occasionally.
  • You will normally be focusing at infinity, at wide open aperture or stopped one down.  To focus, either autofocus on a distant mountain then turn your AF off, or if there isn’t enough light, find a very bright star or planet and manually focus on that.  You can use live view as well, with the ISO temporarily cranked up to a moderately high number.
  • Any exposure of over 15 seconds will have at least some evidence of movement in the stars (or moon).  If you have a very wide angle, say 16 mm, you can get away with 20 or even 25 seconds.  Also, the closer to north (or if in the southern hemisphere, south) you point your camera, the less movement you will notice.
  • If you have no moon and if the landscape below is not very reflective, you will have a very dark image if you shoot at 20 seconds or shorter shutter speed.  You should shoot either wide open (lowest f number) or one stop down (next higher number), and this helps but will not get you a bright image below 20 seconds.  That is, unless you raise your ISO (see next point).
  • Digital noise can be a problem.  First of all, noise is most obvious in dark areas, and you have almost all dark area in a starscape.  Second, the longer the exposure, the more noise.  Third, raising your ISO, say to 800, can give you a bright enough image at less than 20 seconds exposure time.  But the higher your ISO, the more noise.
  • Final noise point: I recommend you try raising your ISO, which could mean only 400 if you have a camera that does not handle noise that well, or even 1600 if you have, say, a Nikon D4 or Canon 5D III.  Then use noise reduction software, either Lightroom or a plugin like Topaz Denoise.  Your camera might have a long exposure noise reduction setting.  Skip it.  It will just double the time you have to wait for the camera to finish, and it doesn’t do as good a job as post-processing software does.
  • You basically have two choices with landscapes.  Either include a simple, recognizable silhouette (a bare tree is the classic – overused? – example) with a bright starry sky (or moon) in the background, or illuminate the foreground.  If the foreground is close enough, you can “paint” with a flashlight or LED during the exposure.  You can also let nature illuminate it for you.  A partial moon can do the job nicely, but you will need dark and very clear skies in order for the stars to not be washed out by the moon.  Experiment; even the full moon can work if you shoot in the opposite direction from it.
  • I’m not discussing things like stacking multiple images in Photoshop, and other post-processing techniques.  Sometimes photographers get these spectacular images with millions of stars, and they’ve stacked images so that stars are repeated.  I avoid this, because it’s phony (I want constellations to be recognizable).  You can stack and get stars that are not visible with the naked eye, which is a little more real I suppose.  You can google this and get some tutorials.  But one thing I will mention is that you can composite two photos, one exposing for the sky, the other for the landscape (see last two points).
  • You can get around the shutter speed limitation by moving with the stars.  You will need a motorized mount to do this, either a tracking telescope or an add-on to your tripod.  Unless you are good at making things, I recommend either picking up a used telescope that tracks (and a piggyback mount for your camera), or buying the fairly new Vixen Polarie.  I just bought this little gem and will soon be shooting with it.  It is a compact, add-on mount for your tripod, and runs on only two AA batteries.  It tracks the stars for you, at both full and half-speed.  It allows you to keep the stars pinpoint sharp over longer exposures, which gives you a brighter and better image.
  • But if you are tracking, you now have the landscape blurred.  So you need to either try tracking at half speed (a great option on the Polarie) or composite two images: one tracking and one with the Polarie switched off.  The only drawback to this amazingly compact unit that I can see is that it cannot handle more than about five pounds.  All depends on not only your camera’s weight, but also your lens and your tripod head.  Note that you will need two tripod heads to use the Vixen.

So this is my admittedly opinionated take on photographing the night sky.  While I’ve tried to lay out the basics, there is no substitute for getting out and experimenting.  Remember to dress more warmly than you’d think would be necessary, and take some snacks and a thermos.  Motivation is a little more difficult to maintain in night sky photography than with normal landscape photography.  The idea is to have fun and to learn more about the night sky.  Good luck!

The total solar eclipse of 2009. This was right after I finally bought a nice DSLR, and I did a cruise in the north Pacific to view this. This is called the “diamond ring” effect. Total solar eclipses are one of Earth’s greatest spectacles.

The annular eclipse of May, 2012 was visible from northern California. I consider solar eclipses to be night sky photography, even though they occur in daytime.

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