Monthly Archives: January 2012

Sirius and Long Exposure Photography!

Long exposure of Sirius with purposeful tripod vibration (found here)

This is very cool – both photographers and astronomers will like this :)

Above, you see an image (a picture) of the brightest star in the sky (besides the Sun), Sirius.  Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major (The Greater Dog) – it is the eye of the dog.  It’s the namesake of SiriusXM Radio (see the (apparently former) logo).  It’s also the namesake of Sirius Black of Harry Potter fame!  What does Sirius Black turn into??  A dog!  A big black one!

Anyway, Sirius is seriously twinkle-y – stars twinkle due to the atmosphere (the atmosphere bubbles and boils and causes light to bend) – if you were in a spacecraft above the atmosphere, you wouldn’t see twinkle-y stars.  The photographer used the fact that the twinkling can change the color of the light that hits your eye (or the camera) because different colors are easier to bend than others (red is easiest, blue is hardest).

The image is a 5 second exposure with a telephoto lens and the tripod was specifically vibrated and taken by astronomer David Lynch.

I was made aware of this picture by Dr. Phil Plait, “The Bad Astronomer” – formerly an astronomy professor, now an author and blogger for Discover Magazine (a fave magazine of mine).

Radiation and Astronauts

from National Geographic - Biggest solar flare in 4 years

So the Sun flares and bubbles and boils – we’ll learn lots more about that later in the semester.  But when the Sun is doing its thing, what is happening to the astronauts?  And how can humans survive a trip to Mars?

A Facebook friend who works at Goddard Space Flight Center shared a photo and a post by a friend of hers who works with astronauts.  The source of the information in the post is actually from an article on NASA’s homepage and you can find it here.

On that page you’ll find graphs and links and a great description of why it’s actually kind of nice for astronauts to be in the “Solar Maximum” :)  How cool is that!  There are other links on that page to the “Phantom Torso” they study and you can find more for yourself.  In class, we’ll talk about some of the issues of human spaceflight during the last few days of class.

Reflecting, while I am an astrophysicist, I don’t want to be an astronaut right now (and actually never really have)…  Kinda odd many might assume…  But the thing is, I really REALLY want to go see stars and how they work and what weirdo ones look like up close!  But I can’t do that yet – we don’t have the technology :(  Until we do, I’ll keep my feet on the ground and watch the awesome data that comes back to us :)

Intro Post

This blog has been designed specifically to be part of my Spring 2012 course at Vanderbilt University: Astronomy 201 – The Solar System

There are so many things a person could do in this blog and I’m looking forward to making this great fun! :)

First, my favorite astronomy website:  Astronomy Picture of the Day!!  Whenever I’m looking for something interesting, I go to this website :)

While at Griffith Observatory in LA – Scientist finger puppets!