Today in pretty space pics: Hubble snaps the northern half of spiral galaxy NGC 981 in profile. The central galactic bulge is just out of frame to the lower left, leaving us with a close-up spanning roughly 100,000 light years that lets us look right through its plane of gas and dust.
Our friends over at Pop Photo got a look at the new Canon 60Da, a DSLR aimed at astrophotographers which we plan on swiping from their area of the office as soon as they get one in. It has a specially-modified infrared filter and a sensor that's been altered for the specifics of taking photos of space--a higher sensitivity to H-alpha, reduced noise over long exposures, an included AC adapter for long shooting sessions, that kind of thing. It comes with a price tag about $500 higher than an equivalent non-space-focused camera, but that won't stop us from wanting one. Read more here.
Today in pretty space pics: the Milky Way, viewed from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean on a clear summer night. Snapped by skywatcher Tunc Tezel on the second largest Cook Island of Mangaia, the image was chosen as a winner of the National Maritime Museum's Astrophotographer of the Year 2011 contest.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — In the basement of a quaintly cramped building on the Harvard University campus, down a set of corkscrew stairs that would make a rollercoaster designer dizzy, the shelves and filing cabinets are spilling over with 100 years of stars. Glass photographic plates shipped from telescopes around the world document the Beehive Cluster as it appeared in 1890, or Cepheid variable stars as they looked in 1908. The glass plates — some 525,000 of them — serve as the only permanent record of the skies as seen by our forebears.
But the 170-ton database represents much more than an archive of astronomical history — it's a potential gold mine for new discoveries, if only scientists could dig through it. With that goal in mind, a small collection of astronomers and archivists is using custom-built technology to bring this enormous data set into the digital age.
A pair of professional astronomers resolved the orbit of a bright comet using photos shot by their amateur counterparts. The research shows it’s possible to mine Internet photo-sharing sites for science — even if the astrophotographers didn’t know they were taking part in a crowdsourcing experiment.