Earth as a pixel and the monsters of space

Starry eyed

In an age when 99% of the photos taken are either self gratifying selfies or Instagram intended food photos it’s nice to sometimes look at something which has a bit more of a story behind it. When I was recently in South Korea staying with my sister, I decided to take some time lapse shots of the stars. The Hero 5 has a cool video lapse feature which stitches all these photos together so I set it to take a photo every 5 minutes. The result was kind of cool albeit a pretty dark:

I finally got round to looking at this again the other day but this time instead of making a video I stacked the photos on top of each other using StarStax. After playing with the settings a bit I managed to get some fairly cool results, I like the sense of movement you get from photos like this, it makes the fact that the earth is spinning more tangible.

After playing around with these a bit I started thinking about some of the most important or at least most interesting photos I’ve seen so I thought I might talk about a few of them here.

A pale blue dot

The Voyager 1 probe is the furthest man made object from earth. It’s an inconceivably long distance away from us (nearly 20 billion KM) and despite being launched in the 70s, it’s still operational. In 1990 when it was around 6 billion miles from earth it turned it’s camera towards earth the photo that’s become known as the Pale Blue Dot. The earth can barely be made out, it’s around 1 pixel big. To look at, it’s not a particularly stunning photo but it’s more about the scale of what you’re looking at. As Carl Sagan said, on that tiny dot “every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives”. What a strange thing to imagine, every thought, every spoken word, every person you know is contained within that single pixel.

Hubble Extreme Deep Field

This is possibly one of the most important images ever taken of the night’s sky. The Hubble team didn’t know what to expect when they pointed their telescope at a particularly dark and uninteresting patch of the sky and took a long exposure photo, the results were mesmerizing. In this photo alone there are over 5,000 galaxies, what we’re seeing when we’re looking at this photo is almost a cross section of the timeline of the universe. We’re seeing the most distance galaxies in this photo as they were only a few hundred thousand years after the big bang, these are unknowable places that we can never go since they are now moving away from us faster than light.

Champagne Supernova

Supernova’s are some of the most violent events in the universe, when they explode for a short time they give out the same amount of light as all the other stars within it’s galaxy, they are truly gargantuan events. There’s dozens of photos of the remains of supernovas but I particularly like this one which kind of looks like the ghost of a star.

It’s incredible to think that all elements that we come across which are above Iron in the periodic table were created by these massive explosions, that means many of the parts that make up the phone you’re holding. Moby wasn’t wrong when he said ‘we are all made of stars’

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