A little sunset CARMA

By Phil Plait | September 4, 2012 11:00 am

Jeff Frost is a photographer who wanders the world taking pictures of interesting things – abandoned buildings are a favorite of his.

He was in Yosemite, near Bristlecone Pine, in mid-August to try to get some pictures of the Perseid meteors. He got rained out, unfortunately, but apparently he got some good karma at sunset… or rather, great CARMA:

[Click to embiggen.]

CARMA is the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy, a collection of dishes that observes objects in the Universe that emit light at millimeter wavelengths – past the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, but not as far as radio waves. Cold objects glow with this kind of light: dust, molecules between the stars, comets, and the leftover radiation from the Big Bang itself.

Jeff got to the array as the Sun was setting, and took this beautiful shot. What’s neat is that they were probably active at that time; millimeter waves go right through our air and aren’t scattered like visible light – and the Sun is pretty dark at those wavelengths – so CARMA can watch the sky day and night. Even through clouds!

In grad school I took a class in radio astronomy, which is turns out is very different than ultraviolet/optical/infrared astronomy. I did OK in the class, but my heart lies in the near-visible spectrum and higher energies. I’ll leave the weird radio stuff to people like NoisyAstronomer.

And I’ll leave you with this lovely time lapse video Jeff made called Flawed Symmetry of Prediction:

Image credit: Jeff Frost, used by permission

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (12)

  1. Brian

    That was … very different from the sort of time-lapse videos I’m accustomed to seeing here. Thanks.

  2. Diederick

    I was at the Bristlecone forest last year. I found it very impressive to realize these trees were as old as some of the bronze age village ruins I saw on Crete. But do you mean to say I completely missed the CARMA? :-(

  3. MadScientist

    I would have thought that mm waves are comfortably within the ‘radio’ band – at least they’re conveniently detected using radio techniques. The sub-mm waves (THz) remain tricky; neither typical optical nor radio detection techniques work well (bolometry is an ancient technique which works well for measuring energy but it’s damned slow).

  4. Gavin Flower

    When I first saw the photo – I immediately thought of Daleks!

    Have I been watching too much DR Who? Is my condition treatable?? :-)

  5. Wow! Very nice video! Did -NOT- see that end coming.

  6. Messier Tidy Upper

    Great photo. :-)

    Is that reddish yellowish glow on the left of it there a parhelia (“Mock Sun” / “Sundog.”) as I’m thinking it might be?

  7. Nigel Depledge

    [nitpick]

    @MTU (6) –
    Parhelia is the plural (as there are usually two sundogs). The singular is, I think, parhelion.

    [/nitpick]

  8. Nigel Depledge

    Gavin Flower (4) said:

    When I first saw the photo – I immediately thought of Daleks!

    Heh! Lots of Daleks in last Saturday night’s episode (first of the new series), and some real dramatic tension.

    Have I been watching too much DR Who? Is my condition treatable??

    Yes, and yes.

    You must watch all of the Jon Pertwee episodes, in order, back to back, without rest, over a weekend.

    ;-)

  9. Matt B.

    The pixelation in the cover picture for that video had me expecting to see someone’s session of Minecraft. (Warning: Do not get into Minecraft, it’s a time drain.)

  10. Phil wrote:

    “millimeter wavelengths – past the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, but not as far as radio waves.”

    Waaaaaaaaaait a minute … I thought the infrared spectrum butted right up against the radio spectrum, with no gap! Wouldn’t millimeter waves be in the microwave range, and thus radio waves?

    EDIT: Darn it, apparently MadScientist beat me to it in post #3.

  11. @7. Nigel Depledge :

    [nitpick]
    @MTU (6) -Parhelia is the plural (as there are usually two sundogs). The singular is, I think, parhelion. [/nitpick]

    I think you’re right there. Parhelion, yep. I stand corrected.

    Always makes me think of the sundog getting blown away by the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s launch now. (See link in name here.) 8)

  12. Ron

    Yosemite is kind of far from there. Are you sure you didn’t mean Death Valley? Mt. Whitney?

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