Tag Archives: stars

My new adventure – astro-photography

Southern CrossI’ve always been fascinated by the stars. All those suns out there, all those galaxies, all that distance. When I was a young person growing up in Perth the street lights were turned off at 1am. Frugal city fathers. Besides, who’d need street lights at that hour? In fact, they famously left the lights ON one night, so John Glenn could see the city as he whizzed over in his space craft in 1962. Read all about it here.

But that was just one night. Normally blackness would descend and the Milky Way would sparkle overhead, a veritable river of stars. Apart from street lights after 1am, it was also true that few of us had air conditioners. So when the temperatures soared in summer, and you couldn’t sleep from the heat, people ventured outside to enjoy the cool of the night. Relatively speaking, you understand. My sister and I indulged in star gazing using binoculars. To keep them steady we tied them to a cake rack, which we tied to a step ladder. And with that contraption we saw the Pleiades – many more than 7 sisters. Gazed at the Orion nebula and its trapezium of stars, marvelled at the Jewel Box in the Southern Cross. And so on. I started learning what I could about astronomy – not the hard stuff with equations, just the things I could understand, like the life cycle of stars, the different types of stars and their properties, the Doppler effect, galaxies… And I bought a telescope, a three inch refractor.

That was a long time ago. But I still love the stars and now I’ve ventured into the world of astro-photography. I want to take magnificent pictures of the Milky Way sprawled across the sky above the Outback or the sea. And maybe some of the horse head nebula in Orion. Or the Jewel Box. Or a galaxy or two. Yes, I have a new telescope.

But for now, that one at top left is the Southern Cross from my front yard. And this one is the sky facing north from my house. Orion is in the middle. You can see Rigel, Betelgeuse, Sirius, Taurus with its principle star Aldebaran, and beneath that the open cluster of the Pleiades. It’s a bit over exposed, but it’s early days. Watch this space. They were taken with my Canon 5D with a Rokinon 14mm lens at 2.8

Oh, by the way, my latest Dryden Universe story, The Eye of the Mother, is coming along. There’s stars in that, too.

Orion etc

Wishing and hoping doesn’t make it real

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

Look, I’m a space nut. It says so on the header up there. So when NASA announced the discovery of “Earth 2.0” I was as excited as the next space nut.

But let’s put this into context, people. What do we really KNOW about this planet, as FACT?

  • It’s in the constellation of Cygnus, 1,400 light years from Earth.
  • It orbits a star slightly larger than our sun, but of the same solar type.
  • The planet has an orbit of 385 Earth days.
  • It’s slightly larger than Earth.

And that’s it.

Let’s face it folks, astronomers have done a LOT of conjecturing on what amounts to a slight dip in the brightness of the star as the planet passes across its face. Science Alert has a rather good article about the discovery, with a little less hype.

We don’t know how long its day is. We don’t know the composition of its atmosphere. We might think it’s rocky but we can’t be certain. We certainly can’t suggest for a moment that its surface looks like the wonderful artist’s impression at top left. We should remember that Mars and Venus are in our sun’s habitable zone. Venus, in particular, could be seen as Earth’s twin – from a distance.

That said, (and to quote Captain Piett) it’s the best lead we’ve had. He was promoted to Admiral not long after that. Maybe we should send a star fleet to check Kepler 452b out. Maybe we’ll meet some Klingons.