This is so cool – photographer André vd Hoeven visited the Pasterze glacier in Austria and took quite a few pictures of it. Quite a few. He then stitched them together to make this astonishing 10,000 x 8600 pixel version that you can pan and scan and zoom:
[You may need to refresh the page if you don't see the pannable and scannable image directly above this sentence.]
The scale’s a bit hard to grasp. So do this: go to the bottom left corner, where you can see a little splash of blue. That’s where the glaciers is breaking up, exposing cleaner ice. Zoom way in on that spot using the control buttons on the bottom right of the picture. See the people standing there near the open water? That’ll give you a sense of scale. Keep your eye on them, and then zoom back out.
Yikes. Das ist ein großer Gletscher!
This is actually only an 87 megapixel version; André told me his full-blown 185 megapixel shot was too big to upload!
If André’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he also created the amazing mosaic of the night sky in Cygnus I posted a couple of weeks ago. His skill is formidable.
I hope he keeps taking pictures of glaciers, too. I am honestly concerned there may not be a whole lot of time left to do so.
Image credit: André van der Hoeven.
The fantastic astrophotographer André vd Hoeven sent me a note recently saying he had been playing with a new lens he bought, and wanted to attach it directly to a CCD camera – a digital detector like a store-bought camera, but designed specifically for astrophotography. Usually those are mounted on the back of a telescope, but with a camera lens on it the assembly takes very wide angle shots of the sky.
How wide? Well, he made a 4×4 mosaic of the entire summer constellation of Cygnus the Swan, and it’s breathtaking:
[Click to enanatidaenate, or get the massive 6200 x 5200 pixel version.]
Yegads! He used a filter on the camera that lets through the light of warm hydrogen, so it picks up the gas floating between the stars. So besides the stars in the picture you also see huge amounts of interstellar gas from exploding stars, stars being born, stars lighting up the material around them… it’s amazing.
He helpfully created an annotated version that explains what you’re seeing:
Messier 106 is an elongated spiral galaxy, seen by us at a low angle, in the constellation of Canes Venatici (CANE-eez ven-AT-ih-sigh, the hunting dogs). It’s about 25 million light years away, give or take. That may sound far — 250 million trillion kilometers! — but for Hubble, that’s considered close. So if you take a stack of Hubble images of M106 and put them together, as amateur astronomer Andre vd Hoeven did, you get a lovely picture it!
[Click to galactinate and get access to a zoomable version -- and you want to. I shrank the image considerably to get it to fit here. (UPDATE: there's a HUGE version at Flickr.)]
M106 looks a bit odd to my eye. The overall structure is pretty typical for a two-armed spiral seen at this low angle, but still… those red spots mark the location of busy star formation. The hot young stars heat up their surrounding gas, and the hydrogen in them reacts by glowing. Usually you see star formation that intense over a large region of the galaxy, or a small region, but not somewhere in between like this.
Not being familiar with the galaxy, I looked it up, and found the image inset here (which I’ve rotated to better match the Hubble image above). Right away we see something really weird: there are two more arms invisible in the Hubble shot!
What the what?
The inset picture is a combination from a lot of telescopes and wavelengths: visible light (displayed as gold), infrared (red), radio (purple) and X-ray (blue). The visible and IR line up well with Hubble’s view, but the radio and X-ray clearly show those extra arms. X-rays are emitted by very hot gas — like, million degrees hot — and radio is emitted by gas with a strong magnetic field permeating it. That’s a hint about what’s going on. Another is that the core of the galaxy is very bright, glowing more fiercely than you’d expect from a normal galaxy.
It’s funny what a difference a little resolution makes. For example, if you look at this photo of the Moon, you’d probably agree it’s very well done and very pretty:
Nice, right? But I post lots of really great pictures here, and this one at first glance doesn’t seem to distinguish itself.
Ah, but appearances can be deceiving: I had to lower the resolution way down to fit my blog. Way down. If you click to enlunenate it, you get a very, very different impression of it, since it’s actually a ginormous 3890 x 4650 pixel monster mosaic! That’s 18 megapixels of lunar goodness!
And it’s gorgeous.
Its not a single shot, but a very nicely done and seamless mosaic of images taken by André vd Hoeven using a Celestron 28 cm (11") telescope. It was actually created using video: he pointed at one part of the Moon, took a 30 second movie at 60 frames per second, and then used software which picked the best of those frames and added them together to produce a single image. He then moved the telescope to a different part of the Moon and repeated the procedure over and over again, until he had 107 images in total! These were then processed to sharpen them up, and finally put together to create the mosaic. The detail is crisp and stunning; you really need to just load up the big image and scroll around it.
I’m amazed at the detail and richness of it. Craters, cliff walls, mountains, and rays pop right out, as well as subtle features difficult to see just looking through a telescope. All in all, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s truly an incredible shot. So I’m glad we got that resolved.
Image credit: André vd Hoeven, used by permission. Tip o’ the dew shield to theritz.