One of the fun things about Astronomy is just how beautiful the views can get. Whether you are laying on the ground and looking up at a sky full of stars or you are looking through a telescope at some distant object, beauty can be found. And the pictures that people take. OMG can you find some amazing pictures. However, this one is at a WHOLE new level.
Nick Risinger has a lot of dedication…and patience. The planning that went into this photo went way beyond anything I could have even thought of trying. This picture is a panoramic. That means it was stitched together from a collection of images. A collection of 37,440 images to be exact. The equivalent size is 5 gigapixels, or 5,000 megapixels. WOW!
So what are we looking at? This is a view of our galaxy as seen from Earth. The ENTIRE view. Every inch of our night sky is covered. And covered in amazing detail. Now this is a beautiful image in and of itself. Nick went a step further. This image is rendered in its full size on his site. Just click on the image to visit the site. WARNING! BE PREPARED TO LOSE TRACK OF TIME!
When you visit the site, you’ll be presented with two options. One option allows you to ZOOM IN, the other allows you to view an INTERACTIVE 360°. Either one will require that you have FLASH installed on your computer. Once installed, click on either option.
The zoomed in version is pretty cool. Expect some loading times, even with a fast computer. Remember, it’s rendering over 37,000 photos. As you zoom in, much like you might see on Google Maps or Google Earth, it renders each section individually. Depending on where on the image you are, it renders everything immediately around that point so that contributes to loading time. Wait and enjoy.
The interactive version is the same, but gives a bit more control over the image. It allows you to view an overlay that shows constellation lines and names. But the really cool part is when you zoom in. For example, find Orion and zoom in to the three close stars in the middle. Nearby, you might seem some colored blobs. Hover over one and it will tell you the name of what you are looking at. Click on the name and it will take you to the Wikipedia page for that object.
One other cool thing I happened to notice is that when the overlay is turned on, find a green line called the Ecliptic. Pan along that and you eventually find a REALLY large star. Hover over it and you’ll find out that it is the sun. Turn the overlay off and on. You’ll notice some other stars that blink on and off as you do this. Turn the overlay on and hover over them to discover that they are the other residents of our solar system. One of the is our moon.
But then, pan the view around a bit and you’ll notice some odd spheres moving around. Position the sun in the center and you’ll see them all converge on the sun…and notice that the view brightens a bit. Nick has simulated the effect of ghosting on the image. Ghosting, as I’ve sometimes heard it called, is when a really bright object is close to your frame of view. When you take a picture, you’ll see these “ghosts” of that bright object appear in your picture. Nick simulated this for both the sun and moon. And the brightening? Well, would you normally see stars when the sun is out? He didn’t completely wash out all of the stars, but it is a fun effect on the image.
So take some time to explore Nick’s site. Read about how he took the image and WISH you had that kind of time and resources. But best of all, see why so many people find the night sky so beautiful.
Enjoy your weekend and an early Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there.