Tag: Babak Tafreshi

Transit on the Midnight Sun

By Phil Plait | June 20, 2012 10:00 am

Because why not, I have two more Venus Transit shots to show you. Well, one picture and one quick time lapse video. I know it’s been a couple of weeks since the transit, but since today is the solstice, what the heck. And these are really special.

The first is a picture taken by friend-of-the-blog Babak Tafreshi, who founded and directs the wonderful project The World at Night, which shows people how lovely our skies are. He took several shots of the transit from Norway and put them together into this gorgeous composite photo:

[Click to ensolarnate, and you really need to; I had to shrink it quite a bit to fit the width of the blog.]

I love this shot, because…. he took it at midnight! From northern Norway in June the Sun doesn’t set; it skims the horizon at midnight, circling nearly parallel to it for a time. This coincided with the transit, making this one of the single most interesting sequences of the transit I’ve seen. I also like how the Sun went behind a hill there on the right, with Venus and a sunspot still peeking over the edge. Babak says he’s working on a time lapse video of the event too. [This picture was also on today’s APOD.]

Speaking of which, the second transit shot is a time lapse video sent to me by Mark Ellis (who took the pink aurora picture I posted yesterday). He took this sequence in Minneapolis as Venus crossed the Sun’s face:

Short, but neat! I also like the music; it was written by Mark’s son Ryan. It fits the feel of the video very well.

I love these time lapse videos of the transit. The Sun is setting due to the Earth spinning on its axis, and Venus transiting the Sun due to its orbital geometry combined with our own. I like to picture all that motion in my head as I watch Venus silhouetted on the setting Sun, imagining myself affixed to a spinning world whirling around a star with other attendant worlds, all of us in a constant and complicated dance, moving to the tune of gravity.

How wonderful it is that we can understand and appreciate this celestial clockwork!

Image credit: Babak Tafreshi/Dreamview.net/TWaN

Related Posts:

The June 2012 Transit of Venus Gallery
Astronomer’s paradise (and Making "Astronomer’s Paradise")
How could I NOT post this Venus transit picture?
Sic Transit, Glorious

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Making "Astronomer's Paradise"

By Phil Plait | February 28, 2012 3:59 pm

In early February I posted a gorgeous time lapse video of the night sky in Chile called "Astronomer’s Paradise". One of the astrophotographers who created that video, Christoph Malin, has written an article about what went into making the video, and it’s as complex as you might expect. The article discusses equipment, processing, and the location of the shoot, and yikes, what a haul it must have been! There are gorgeous pictures posted there too, like this one of a laser being used to create an artificial star to improve the telescope’s resolution:


There are lots more such pictures on Flickr.

I’ll note that Christoph put together a different version of "Astronomer’s Paradise" that has significantly different footage, and it’s well worth your time to watch.

Christoph and Babak Tafreshi are working on Parts 2 and 3. I can’t wait to see them!

Related Posts:

An astronomer’s paradise
Satellite Tumblr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Satellite tumblr

By Phil Plait | February 24, 2012 7:00 am

While taking pictures for a night sky timelapse video, astrophotogrpaher Babak Tafreshi got a surprise in his field of view: a tumbling satellite! He made a special video to highlight it:

Pretty neat. A lot of people aren’t even aware that satellites are visible at night at all, but really on any given night dozens of satellites can be visible passing through the sky; in fact the space station is so bright it’s actually now the third brightest object in the sky, surpassing even Venus.

The satellites come in a lot of flavors: communications, military, scientific, even old rocket boosters abandoned in orbit after their job was done. Sometimes those satellites have to maintain a specific attitude, or angle, as they orbit the Earth, but not all of them do (especially those boosters). These can tumble end over end, and so their brightness changes as we look at them. They shine by reflecting sunlight, so when we see a long booster end-on it’s fainter than when we see it from the side. As they tumble, then, they brighten and fade.

That’s what Babak caught here. I don’t know what satellite he’s seeing, but clearly from its behavior it’s tumbling as it orbits [UPDATE: Babak told me that it’s been identified as a Cosmos 2364, a defunct navigation satellite, and it’s most likely rotating, not tumbling, and the change in brightness is due to how sunlight is reflecting off its solar panels]. I’ve seen this myself many, many times and it’s fascinating to watch. In this time lapse it’s sped way up, of course, so it’s more stately when you see one by eye.

If you want to see satellites yourself, then I always suggest Heavens Above, which is my go-to site to find out what’s up. Just enter your latitude and longitude (you can get them from Google Maps, for example) and off you go! They’re also easy to photograph, too (check the Related Posts below for more). It’s fun, and actually pretty cool: you can get pictures of things screaming around the Earth at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour! And all you need is an inexpensive camera and a tripod.

And you don’t even need that to enjoy them. Just go outside at the right time, face the right direction, and look up. That’s all it takes.

Related posts:

And I saw a star rising in… the WEST?
Shooting satellites, new and old
The Shuttle, the Station, and Orion

An astronomer's paradise

By Phil Plait | February 5, 2012 7:00 am

Cerro Paranal, in the high, dry, Atacama desert in Chile, is where some of the best astronomy in the world is done. It’s graced with incredibly dark and steady skies, and a view of the southern hemisphere skies that, frankly, makes me jealous.

So it’s hard to argue with the title of this short time lapse video, An Astronomer’s Paradise:

This was taken by photographer Babak Tafreshi, who alerted me that he had put it online. Watch it to 1:30 in if only to watch Orion rise — upside down, to my northern hemisphere bias! — with colors and texture that are simply stunning.

Isn’t that awesome? And then a few seconds later, he shows a still image of the great Carina Nebula with the four domes of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer silhouetted against the sky. You can get a better look at that at The World At Night website, which has amazing shots of the sky.

I hope someday to make a trip to this part of the world. To see this for myself…

Credit: Babak Tafreshi

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

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