Astrophotography

Light Pollution Awareness

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Google Earth Night Sky
Google Earth – Light Pollution

For a few years ago an astronomy friend of mine and myself went out to our favorite location where we normally setup our telescopes and did our stargazing and astrophotography. On a late evening we had two journalists joining us (Johan Joelsson & Jonatan Jacobson) to do an interview based on a research my friend had been working for years, namely, charting how extensively light pollution had spread across in south and the central regions of Sweden. At the time there was no agency, or other independent organizations that had any detailed maps over this. My friend’s idea was to assist amateur astronomers but also provide awareness over this issue.

Light pollution can be typically described as the unawareness of the effects on how we use light sources at public, our buildings, our farms and other types of facilities/buildings and the consequences it brings towards the environment and the ecosystem overall.

Light pollution in our environment can be easily discarded as nonsense but when satellite imagery started to become publicly accessible, it was hard to ignore it. The expansion of cities over the decades, the deforestation, the new road systems with lights spreading across countries and the ever increased human population start paying its toll towards the environment (Below is a satellite image over US, showing us how extensive light pollution is across the east part of the country).

Satellite Image over light pollution in US
Satellite Image over light pollution in US – NASA

What many people are unaware of (other than the term itself) is that it has an immense impact to human life and wildlife. Wild animals that are using darkness to hide from nightly predators, or predators who use darkness to be camouflaged or to see better, or even newborn turtles are mislead starting to wander towards cities instead,  are just a few out of many examples where the pollution got out of hand.

To us astronomers just like wildlife itself, are trying to seek ourselves away to darker areas, as far as possible from civilization in order to be able to observe the wonders of the night sky. Professional astronomers that work with research are trying to build new facilities in remote areas as well, such as the top large mountains or inhabitant areas in other continents.

Apart from that, there’s also on-going studies to determine how badly flora is effected when it comes to cellular respiration and growth. And not so surprisingly when it comes to humans there are already two types of cancer connected to this issue, as well as the disturbed production of melatonin in our bodies. In recent years there has been an increased amount of prescribed melatonin by doctors around the world to their patients. Melatonin is the substance produced by our brains to help balance our sleep cycles.

Below is an illustration from the software Stellarium that got a setting to turn on different levels of light pollution on your night sky. Stellarium can even extract data from your area you live at and apply the appropriate level of light pollution automatically for you. From left to right you have light pollution level 1 (national parks, or far away from civilization), level 3 in rural areas (country side, with few farms and some forests), level 5 (minor cities with a population of 1000 to 5000 people), level 7 (suburban areas with a population of 10,000 to 100,000 people) and finally level 9 are large cities where only main constellation stars, planets are making barely any appearance in the skies in ideal city conditions (without smog, fog, smoke, etc.)

 

Light Pollution in different environments
Light Pollution in different environments

All in all, the severity of the effects from light pollution can be easily classified as an equal to other environmental pollution. We loose our night skies resulting to younger generations having no memory of describing something as easily identifiable as the milky way. Some humans haven’t seen anything else apart from the moon and sun. Their knowledge is based on images from google, school books and because the teacher said so.

The night sky was once upon a time a source of inspiration from the ages of antiquity to recent years, but it is constantly under daily threat. Would humanity ever experience night-sky-inspired individuals such as Galileo, Newton or Einstein if the skies don’t look the same anymore? For those who’ve been reading on their biographies will realize that they were inspired by the freedom of thought and the wonders of cosmos.

There is still however hope as long as we get aware of what all this means and if all of us take a few moments to take our own little measurements that will add up. Get new light bulbs for your backyard that point downwards and don’t reflect or spread light more than what is necessary and even visit the International Dark Sky Association to read more in regards to light pollution and how you can help to educate others about it and to become the advocates of it.

Our environment is in need of more awareness from all of us, much more now than ever before. You can save energy and lower your energy bills at your own home by turning off unnecessary light sources, install light sources pointing down to the areas you’re interested instead of letting your light sources scatter light in your surroundings and the sky (unnecessary loss of energy for no purpose). If you live near the beach, harbor, sea in general, avoid pointing light sources towards the waters or forests. That may save the life for animals.

Once a year is the celebration of Earth Hour. Turn off your lights for just 1 hour to save energy and to teach your younglings about the environment which we are part of.

 

Niklas Henricson

Total Lunar Eclipse – January 31, 2018

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Right after solar eclipses it is commonly expected to observe a total lunar eclipse. In California we’ll be able to observe a total lunar eclipse on January 31, 2018 starting at 02:51 AM.
As the moon moves the first type of shadow will be the earth’s penumbra and as it finally reaches totality it will turn full red (umbra).

The examples I’m posting here, are some very old afocal photos I took when I was living in Stockholm, Sweden through a Newton telescope. These were my very first images back in August 16, 2008 and little I knew about focus, exposures, etc. That will make it easier for me to redeem myself with proper equipment and methods.

Below is how the total lunar eclipse shadow will move across the continents on January 31, 2018. This illustration originates from timeanddate.com. Visit this website to find out how your own eclipse will look like at your location and which time.

Here’s an image from the free license software – Stellarium, showing how the lunar eclipse will look at from your location. Stellarium can be downloaded at no cost for all platforms (Mac, Linux and Windows) click here to download Stellarium.

Lunar Eclipse as viewed through Stellarium
Lunar Eclipse – Stellarium

Niklas Henricson

Great American Eclipse – More photos

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Three days after this magnificent eclipse I managed to process through some more photos out of my camera’s memory card. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to capture the diamond ring before the totality, just the one the came afterwards. Regardless, I am happy the sun got sunspots 2671 and 2672 clearly visible. It made the job a whole lot easier.

All images were photographed with a Canon EOS 50D, DSLR camera on prime focus method on a William Optics 110mm FLT APO f/7.0 telescope. While the live video on Youtube at the day of the eclipse was a Samsung Galaxy S7 phone with afocal method on a 32 mm ocular attached on a William Optics Megrez 72mm FD f/6.0.

The camera settings were, ISO-500, shutter speed at 1/3200 sec., 6000 K and the wheel setting was on M (manual mode).

Below is a composite image of all the solar eclipse phases that are displayed individually on the slideshow above. Click on the image below to expand it to its full size.

Mosaik-Entire-Eclipse
Solar Eclipse – Composite image

Niklas Henricson

American Total Solar Eclipse Photos

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This is the first portion of photos me and my wife took during the American Solar Eclipse, August 21st, 2017 at Corvallis in Oregon. I’ll keep posting more photos as time goes and as I find more time in order to process them from their original format in my cameras.

Here are some of the total solar eclipse photos. To the left is the diamond ring while on the right is the totality. Note a couple of prominences (fire flares) showing in the edges of the sun on the top but also the moon’s surface doesn’t appear to be perfect round because of the mountains and valleys in its surface.

We met many interesting and friendly people from Kenya (the country), Phoenix Arizona, San Fransisco bay area, Arkansas, Texas and other cities in California. If you guys read this please comment or send me an email with your names so I can add you here!

Among all of them we also had Jodie Smalley coming up to us, asking if we could take some photos while she breathed fire during the totality of the eclipse. My wife went off with her at a place without grass to record that awesome idea she had (watch the fire breathing video below were Melissa talks also about the shadows on the ground).

Below you’ll find some of our videos and photos while we were preparing to start documenting this amazing event!

To my surprise Youtube has stopped offering the ability to add annotations in your videos anymore, as mobile devices don’t support them. Annoying as you can’t add corrections or additional comments to the narrative sound in the background. But according to Google 60% of the users are using mobile devices to watch these videos, which is quite remarkable. However, just before the eclipse I shouted “ring of fire” which is the wrong technical term. Obviously, I meant to say “diamond ring” instead.

A ring of fire is the maximum of an annular eclipse. Now, annular eclipses are the ones when the moon is further away from the earth hence it doesn’t cover the entire sun. An annular eclipse is around the corner and will happen October 14, 2023 and you can see it from northern California.

After the 2023 annular eclipse and If you’ve also missed the 2017 total eclipse, there’s one more chance in 2024 in Texas.

 

Here are some photos from my friend and colleague Akash Garg who was in Sacramento, California at our work area. Even though the eclipse was partial in Sacramento, he could still see the crescent-shaped shadows on the ground from trees and other objects.

Niklas Henricson

Trip to Oregon – Day 3

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Was using my William Optics Megrez 72mm f/6 Doublet Apo refractor telescope with my DSLR camera to take some test photos prior the solar eclipse. I am happy the sun got now some sunspots to show instead of being just the plain shiny disc it is now days.

These were the results,

Filter: Thousand Oaks Solar Filter
Camera: Canon EOS 50D
ISO speed: 250
Tv (Shutter speed): 1/2500 s
Color Temperature: 2500 K
Telescope: William Optics Megrez 72 mm FD Doublet Apo

Test-Shot-20170820

Niklas Henricson

Trip to Oregon – Day 2

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Niklas Henricson