An award-winning photographer tells you how to take pictures of the night sky – CBC.ca
Dave Brosha is a professional photographer who, over the last 15 years, has taken highly stunning pictures of the Canadian wilderness.
It was when he was living in Yellowknife — before he pursued photography full time — that he first became interested in pointing his lens toward the skies.
“Yellowknife is known as one of the best areas on the planet for displays of the aurora borealis,” he said. “I found myself outside many, many nights under the stars.”
Since then Brosha has been short-listed multiple times for the Astronomy Photography of the Year Awards, and in 2010 he was the first runner-up in the category of land and space.
Now that he’s based in P.E.I., he splits his time between doing commercial assignments and teaching photography to people across Canada and in other parts of the world.
Every summer, he holds a workshop on the Island with his colleague, Paul Zizka, on sunset and nighttime photography that features astrophotography, the art of capturing a picture of an object in space.
“There’s people that are more into deep-space photography, actually photographing the galaxies and close-ups of planets and stars and stuff like that,” Brosha said. “But to me, astrophotography is really just going out into the world once the light disappears and just exploring the beauty of that.”
Though his workshop just ended, Brosha took some time to tell CBC what beginners need to know to get into this hobby, which he says at its most barebones doesn’t require more than a fairly basic DSLR camera or a good smartphone — not even a fancy location.
“My favourite nighttime photographs have always just kind of come in my own backyard. I don’t have to drive anywhere, and it’s right there,” he said.
“Whether exploring star trails or aurora borealis or Milky Way photographs, or just being able to go outside in your own backyard, it’s [all] pretty wonderful.
“It helps to live in the countryside.”
Switching to manual
All good nighttime photographers — and all good photographers in general — must have a firm grasp on the concept of exposure. That’s the amount of light that’s allowed to reach the camera sensor. A picture that’s underexposed is one that looks too dark.
“You have to understand the principles of capturing very small amounts of light over a longer time. So you have to know how to be able to operate your camera to capture those miniscule bits of light,” Brosha said. “It really forces you to slow down and think.”
For starters, that means ditching your camera’s auto settings.
“You can’t really shoot night photography effectively in just auto mode. You have to learn the exposure triangle,” he said. “It takes a little bit of work, for sure. But the rewards are tremendous.”
Keep it steady
The longer the camera’s shutter remains open, the larger the amount of light the camera takes in. As such, in a night photography environment, it’s common to see shutter speeds of over 20 to 30 seconds.
But a slow shutter speed means the camera is very sensitive to any motion.
That’s great if you’re trying to capture the movement of celestial bodies such as when taking a “star trail” photograph, but even a slight movement could lead to blurry images.
Brosha said that for long exposures, it’s important to keep your camera steady. That means a good tripod is almost a must.
“If all else fails, I’ve improvised by propping my camera up on a solid surface,” Brosha said. “Using a timer on your camera rather than pressing your shutter also helps reduce camera shake.”
Check your ISO
Cranking up the ISO allows for more light to get in the camera at the expense of quality.
That could compensate for a faster shutter speed when capturing a moving object, such as when trying to capture the outlines of bright northern lights.
And having both a slow shutter speed and a high ISO could lead to highly detailed images of the night sky, such as this self-portrait with the Milky Way as a backdrop. It was taken with a 3200-ISO, and a 30-second shutter speed.
“When you go out there, and you even just let your eyes adjust for the dark, and you’re out there an hour, it’s remarkable how much more you see. The camera can take that even further,” Brosha said. “[It] picks up so much more.”
Brosha said that other than avoiding pouring rain, there are no real “ideal” conditions as to when to venture out, and that all types of weather can lead to interesting pictures.
“Cloudy? Reflected light pollution can actually look interesting in a long exposure. Full moon? Not the best conditions for shooting the Milky Way, but great conditions for being able to see your foregrounds,” he said.
A pitch-black night is a prime setting for taking pictures of stars. And if you’re looking to take a picture of the northern lights, you better look, well, north.
“It’s generally easier to photograph on the North Shore, when the aurora borealis is predicted. So that’s what I would probably recommend to people,” Brosha said.
Go out there and shoot
Brosha said that astrophotography may look intimidating on the surface, but that it’s not as complicated as most people might think.
“All you have to grasp to begin is the concept of long exposure. And that usually I find for people is something that they can get the hang of pretty quickly. It just takes a little bit of practice,” he said.
Once you got that nailed down, Brosha said you can get really creative with it. And the setting allows for that.
“Every time you turn on a light, like a flashlight, your eyes kind of lose the adjustment to the nighttime that you’ve gained,” he said.
“So you really try to function with as little light as possible. And so everything becomes slower and more deliberate.”
Plus, Brosha said, it’s a fine excuse to go outdoors.
James Webb spots swirling, gritty clouds on remote planet
Researchers observing with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have pinpointed silicate cloud features in a distant planet’s atmosphere. The atmosphere is constantly rising, mixing, and moving during its 22-hour day, bringing hotter material up and pushing colder material down.
The resulting brightness changes are so dramatic that it is the most variable planetary-mass object known to date. The team, led by Brittany Miles of the University of Arizona, also made extraordinarily clear detections of water, methane and carbon monoxide with Webb’s data, and found evidence of carbon dioxide. This is the largest number of molecules ever identified all at once on a planet outside our solar system.
Cataloged as VHS 1256 b, the planet is about 40 light-years away and orbits not one, but two stars over a 10,000-year period. “VHS 1256 b is about four times farther from its stars than Pluto is from our sun, which makes it a great target for Webb,” Miles said. “That means the planet’s light is not mixed with light from its stars.”
Higher up in its atmosphere, where the silicate clouds are churning, temperatures reach a scorching 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (815 degrees Celsius).
Within those clouds, Webb detected both larger and smaller silicate dust grains, which are shown on a spectrum. “The finer silicate grains in its atmosphere may be more like tiny particles in smoke,” noted co-author Beth Biller of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “The larger grains might be more like very hot, very small sand particles.”
VHS 1256 b has low gravity compared to more massive brown dwarfs, which means that its silicate clouds can appear and remain higher in its atmosphere where Webb can detect them. Another reason its skies are so turbulent is the planet’s age. In astronomical terms, it’s quite young. Only 150 million years have passed since it formed—and it will continue to change and cool over billions of years.
In many ways, the team considers these findings to be the first “coins” pulled out of a spectrum that researchers view as a treasure chest of data. In many ways, they’ve only begun identifying its contents. “We’ve identified silicates, but better understanding which grain sizes and shapes match specific types of clouds is going to take a lot of additional work,” Miles said. “This is not the final word on this planet—it is the beginning of a large-scale modeling effort to fit Webb’s complex data.”
Although all of the features the team observed have been spotted on other planets elsewhere in the Milky Way by other telescopes, other research teams typically identified only one at a time. “No other telescope has identified so many features at once for a single target,” said co-author Andrew Skemer of the University of California, Santa Cruz. “We’re seeing a lot of molecules in a single spectrum from Webb that detail the planet’s dynamic cloud and weather systems.”
The team came to these conclusions by analyzing data known as spectra gathered by two instruments aboard Webb, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). Since the planet orbits at such a great distance from its stars, the researchers were able to observe it directly, rather than using the transit technique or a coronagraph to take this data.
There will be plenty more to learn about VHS 1256 b in the months and years to come as this team—and others—continue to sift through Webb’s high-resolution infrared data. “There’s a huge return on a very modest amount of telescope time,” Biller added. “With only a few hours of observations, we have what feels like unending potential for additional discoveries.”
What might become of this planet billions of years from now? Since it’s so far from its stars, it will become colder over time, and its skies may transition from cloudy to clear.
The researchers observed VHS 1256 b as part of Webb’s Early Release Science program, which is designed to help transform the astronomical community’s ability to characterize planets and the disks where they form.
The team’s paper, entitled “The JWST Early Release Science Program for Direct Observations of Exoplanetary Systems II: A 1 to 20 Micron Spectrum of the Planetary-Mass Companion VHS 1256-1257 b,” will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The work is currently published on the arXiv preprint server.
Brittany E. Miles et al, The JWST Early Release Science Program for Direct Observations of Exoplanetary Systems II: A 1 to 20 Micron Spectrum of the Planetary-Mass Companion VHS 1256-1257 b, arXiv (2022). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2209.00620
James Webb spots swirling, gritty clouds on remote planet (2023, March 22)
retrieved 22 March 2023
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
Parade of planets: Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Mars alignment
Sky-gazers will be treated to a parade of planets near the end of month when Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Mars will appear together in the night sky.
On March 28, a large planetary alignment will take place when the five planets appear just after sunset, all within a 50-degree sector of the sky, according to sky tracking site Starwalk.
Jupiter and Mercury will appear near the horizon, in the constellation Pisces, while Venus will be visible higher in the sky on the constellation Aries, the sky-tracking site noted.
Next, Uranus will line up nearby but a pair of binoculars may be required to get a glimpse of the planet. Finally, Mars will appear higher in the sky, near the moon, to complete the five-planet alignment.
“Although March 28 is the best day for observation, the alignment will be visible several days before and after that date,” the website explained.
If the weather isn’t in your favour next week, there will be other opportunities to catch a planetary alignment this year, including another five-planet alignment on June 17. Mercury, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn will be on parade that evening.
'Astronomical lightshow' – Gazette
Next year, 2024, is Solar Eclipse Year.
On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the south Pacific Ocean, northern Mexico, across the U.S. and through the Atlantic provinces of Canada.
More importantly, the total solar eclipse will be visible from southwestern Newfoundland, in the areas of Stephenville and across central Newfoundland through Terra Nova Park and Gander.
A partial eclipse will be visible across the province, with St. John’s and Corner Brook just outside the range of a total eclipse, an 80 per cent eclipse in Labrador City and a 70 per cent eclipse in Nain.
The 2024 solar eclipse will be the first eclipse crossing the province since 1970 and the only one until 2079.
For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event to see a total solar eclipse in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Solar eclipses are special events in many cultures and have allowed scientists to make great discoveries.”
We are fortunate to even be able to observe a solar eclipse.
The Earth is the only place in our solar system where there is a moon that is about the same size in the sky (0.5 degree) as the sun.
Solar eclipses are special events in many cultures and have allowed scientists to make great discoveries.
When the moon passes in front of the sun, most of the light is blocked and we can see the sun’s corona (more about the corona below).
A note: make sure to wear appropriate eye protection during an eclipse to look at the sun.
The late Dr. Jay Pasachoff, an American astronomer, was so inspired by solar eclipses that he chased them around the world to experience more than 70 eclipses in about 50 years.
In a New York Times 2010 op-ed, he wrote: “There’s also the primal thrill this astronomical lightshow always brings the perfect alignment, in solemn darkness, of the celestial bodies that mean most to us.”
There is the thrill of observing solar eclipses and there is the thrilling science of them, too.
Thanks to solar eclipses, we learn about the sun’s corona, a thin layer of plasma that is just above the sun’s surface.
We normally can’t see it because it is so thin and has such a small density, but the temperature of the corona is about one million degrees Celsius.
It is believed that the corona is related to the sun’s magnetic field and to things like solar flares and mass ejections.
These flares and mass ejections impact the Earth through space weather and the aurorae — phenomena that those of us in the Northern Hemisphere recognize as the Northern Lights.
And it’s not just the sun.
Solar eclipses were important to provide some of the early evidence of Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.
Einstein predicted that light is bent by the gravity of stars.
So, if we can see stars behind the sun, they will appear to be in a slightly different location in the sky relative to each other than when we see them normally.
In 1919 scientists observed stars behind the sun that became visible during a solar eclipse and found that, indeed, their observations agreed with Einstein’s theory.
Town of Gander a major partner
Solar eclipses are fantastic events that connect humans to nature, celestial bodies and to the universe.
Next year’s celebration is an opportunity to celebrate science, nature and humanity.
Thanks to the enthusiasm and excitement of its staff and council, Prof. Svetlana Barkanova, Department of Physics, Grenfell Campus, and I are partnering with the Town of Gander to host a solar eclipse viewing party on April 8, 2024, and a science festival in the days before the eclipse.
The town is excited to be a major partner bringing people from across Newfoundland and Labrador to learn, discover and experience a total solar eclipse together.
The town has pledged to develop a budget to assist with the costs of this unique science festival, along with providing facilities, viewing sites and in-kind assistance.
The event is being planned in collaboration with a continuing science and community outreach program led by Prof. Barkanova and her team.
They deliver a large-scale scientific and cultural outreach program for youth in our province, especially rural youth, girls and Indigenous students, and is currently developing in-person and online seminars and workshops leading up to the solar eclipse.
“It is an ideal chance for us at Memorial to do what we do best — share what is great about our fields.”
This is a call to faculty, students and staff at Memorial University across all campuses to join in the celebration and help it grow and expand.
Not only will we have the opportunity to experience an amazing celestial event, it is a chance to come together in central Newfoundland and share the stories of what we do at Memorial from how we understand the sun and moon in astrophysics, in cultures, in literatures, in humanities and so on.
This is a call to action for your involvement; more participating colleagues means more public talks, Science on Tap events, outreach in schools and more.
It is an ideal chance for us at Memorial to do what we do best — share what is great about our fields and do so around this rare event in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Come join in for Solar Eclipse Year 2024 in Gander. Contact me via email.
Co-authored by Dr. Svetlana Barkanova, Department of Physics, Grenfell Campus, and Brian Williams, tourism development officer, Town of Gander.
Canada extends emergency travel program for Ukrainians fleeing war – CBC.ca
Alberta premier pitches more gas-fired power plants as UN climate panel calls for phaseout
Liberal MP Han Dong leaving caucus amid foreign interference allegations
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
Art23 hours ago
Daniel Sundahl creates memorial portraits for fallen EPS officers
Economy23 hours ago
Highlights of Quebec 2023-24 budget
Media12 hours ago
Why one county is suing social media companies
Tech24 hours ago
Developer release candidates for tvOS 16.4 & watchOS 9.4 are out
Economy10 hours ago
NOVA Chemicals sets bold ESG aspirations to lead the plastics circular economy
News20 hours ago
The Losani Family Foundation celebrates 10 years of giving back
Economy17 hours ago
US interest-rate decision the world is watching
Health12 hours ago
‘Worsening spread’ of deadly fungal infection raising alarm in U.S.