Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Starry Eyed

This is really fun (via Gizmodo): a picture how the sky would look if your eyes were as sensitive as a long exposure telescope image.
Explanation: Intricate, glowing nebulae that shine in planet Earth's night sky are beautiful to look at in deep images made with telescopes and sensitive cameras. But they are faint and otherwise invisible to the naked-eye. That makes their relative location and extent on the sky difficult to appreciate. So, consider this impressive composite image of a wide region of the northern winter sky. With a total exposure time of 40 hours, the painstaking mosaic presents a nebula-rich expanse known as the Orion-Eridanus Superbubble above a house in suburban Boston, USA. Within the wide and deep view are nebulae more often seen in narrower views, including the Great Orion Nebula, the Rosette Nebula, the Seagull Nebula, the California Nebula, and Barnard's Loop. The familiar constellation of Orion itself is just above the foreground house. Brightest star Sirius is left of the roof, and the recognizable Pleiades star cluster is above the tree at the right. A version of the big picture that includes simple constellation guidelines is available here.
One can get a sense of this even with the naked eye if you go way out in the desert, e.g. in South Africa. I once saw the large and small Magellanic clouds down there -- with my eyes -- and I was never the same again.

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