A total solar eclipse is the most impressive phenomenon that can happen in the sky. And I’ve seen pretty much all kinds of astronomical events. Nothing comes even close to it. The total solar eclipse on August 21 2017 was probably the most advertised eclipse in history, And that’s because it was visible from a populated area – the United States of America. We’ve been planning for quite a while to see the eclipse so we booked accommodation around our preferred viewing locations a long time before the event. I had multiple locations selected for viewing the eclipse with a main one on the Western side of the Tetons and 4 back-up ones in Idaho and Wyoming. We got to Boulder on August 18 then went scouting in Wyoming on the 19th. After weighing all options, I settled for a place in central Wyoming – Castle Gardens. Castle Gardens is basically in the middle of nowhere. Which was good, taking into account that all easily accessible locations were packed with people. We were a happy group of 10 Romanians (we have a long astronomical history together) and 5 Americans. We camped at Castle Gardens on the night before the eclipse […]
If you happen to be in Beijing, pass by the Planetarium to see the “Silk Road at Night” photo exhibition. It’s a great effort put up by fellow TWANer Dai Jianfeng from China. 37 photographers, 38 countries, 56 photos from all over the world, but only “One People, One Sky.” I have one photo in the exhibition. It’s a shot of the Venus transit in 2012. I took the photo from the shore of the Black Sea through a 1m focal length telescope. A transit of Venus across the Sun takes place when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and a superior planet, becoming visible against (and hence obscuring a small portion of) the solar disk. During a transit, Venus can be seen from Earth as a small black disk moving across the face of the Sun. Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. The last transit of Venus was on 5 and 6 June 2012, and was the last Venus transit of the 21st century; the prior transit took place on 8 June 2004. I managed to see and photograph that one too. The next transits of Venus will be on 10–11 December 2117, and […]
The sky looked a lot better when I was a kid. It was enough to go behind my house and there were countless stars visible in a beautiful dark aquamarine sky. Well, things changed quite a bit and nowadays, light pollution is more annoying than ever. We don’t have any natural night anymore. We got used to our yellowish urban skies. It’s a huge problem for visual observations of the night sky, but it’s also a problem for astrophotographers. In order to take nice, natural looking, images of the night sky, you need to go in the middle of nowhere far away from city lights and populated places. Just a few weeks ago, NiSi launched a new filter, dubbed “Natural Night”, to help night photographers. The Natural Night filter is a light pollution killer. I received the filter from NiSi before it was launched and I started playing with it. Unfortunately, the famous Lofoten weather was against me and I was barely able to take a few shots around the islands. Then, for the whole month of April, I was in Romania and I had high hopes for better weather there. Guess what! The weather was as bad as in […]
Eu n-am televizor acasă. Și nu am televizor dintr-un motiv simplu: nu-mi place cum arată lumea în dreptunghiul ăla de pe perete. Culorile mi se par greșite, trebuie să stau fix în fața lui sau totul se duce pe câmpii, negrul e un fel de gri închis ș.a.m.d. Știți cum mi s-a schimbat părerea asta la 180 de grade? Mi-am văzut fotografiile cu Aurora Boreală și cu cerul înstelat pe un televizor LG OLED 4K. Și-am tăcut câteva zeci de secunde. Și-apoi am zis: “Eu vreau un televizor de-ăsta.” Nu mi-a venit să cred că am zis eu asta, dar am zis. Nu știu dacă sunteți familiari cu modul în care un televizor obișnuit produce imaginea. Orice televizor care funcționează pe baza tehnologiilor deja clasice (LCD, LED) folosește un panou luminos a cărui lumină trece prin diverse, să le spunem simplu, filtre pentru a forma imaginea vizibilă. Panoul luminos nu poate fi controlat la nivel de pixel, iar asta face ca negrul din imaginea finală să nu arate excepțional. Însă, tehnologia OLED schimbă multe atunci când vine vorba de negru. Televizoarele OLED nu au un panou luminos în fundal și, de aceea, pot controla fiecare pixel, iar dacă e nevoie […]
I travel and I camp quite a lot. And I love astrophotography. How can you mix these two? Some time ago, I was using a traditional German equatorial mount, a guidescope and a laptop for astrophotography. The mount was around 18 kilos, tripod included, the guidescope around 2 and the laptop added another 1.5 kg to the setup. This was without my camera and imaging telescope or camera lenses. Oh, and let’s not forget the heavy 12V battery. And the cables. Lots of cables and adapters. Then, I decided to switch to a lighter setup more suitable to by style of astrophotography. I usually do astrophotography at short focal lengths, the longest being 500mm. Now, most of my astrophotography is done with a star tracker on a tripod, one camera body, two lenses, one telescope and one Macbook Pro for post processing. And a portable power pack. For the tracker, I chose the Fornax LighTrack II. Yes, there are lighter trackers out there, but I agreed to trade some weight for tracking accuracy. The LighTrack II is for sure the most accurate star tracker available on the market today. The peak-to-peak unguided tracking error of the LighTrack is around 2 arcseconds, […]
It’s August and the Perseids are right around the corner. The most famous meteor shower of the year should reach peak activity in the morning of August 12, between 00 and 04 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). According to Jérémie Vaubaillon, one of the foremost meteor scientists, we should have better than average rates this year. Of course, take this with a grain of salt; nobody guarantees it’s going to happen. But even if we have normal activity from the Perseids, the show will be pretty spectacular. Expect to see around 50-60 meteors per hour; maybe more. But what are the Perseids? The Perseids, like most meteor showers, originate from comets. While travelling through the Solar System, comets leave behind a stream of debris, called meteoroids. These are very small bodies, ranging in size from a grain of sand to one meter. When comets intersect the orbit of a planet (in our case, Earth), gravity makes the meteoroids gather into clouds along the orbit of the planet. When Earth goes through one of this clouds of particles, the meteoroids fall towards the planet. Because of friction with the atmosphere, the gases surrounding the small meteoroid get ionised and emit light. This […]
A few weeks ago, I got a pretty unexpected message from Babak Tafreshi, Director of TWAN – The World at Night. He was inviting me to join TWAN. Rubbed my eyes twice, then read again. Whoa! TWAN is a project I’ve been looking upon since it was founded. It’s been a great inspiration to me during the past almost ten years. And it’s actually the project that made me start doing landscape astrophotography again. “The World At Night (TWAN) is a program to create and exhibit a collection of stunning landscape astrophotographs and time-lapse videos of the world’s most beautiful and historic sites against a nighttime backdrop of stars, planets and celestial events. TWAN is a bridge between art, humanity, and science. The eternally peaceful sky looks the same above all the landmarks and symbols of different nations and regions, attesting to the truly unified nature of Earth as a planet rather than an amalgam of human-designated territories. Those involved in global programs learn to see humanity as a family living together on a single planet amidst the vast ocean of our Universe. This global perspective motivates us to work for a better, more peaceful planet for all the world’s inhabitants.” […]
I am so very stoked to be chosen as the winner of The 2016 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest. My image of the Northern Lights shot last October from the top of Mount Reinebringen, in Lofoten, was selected as the winner in the Against the Lights category and overall contest winner. The image was shot on October the 7th 2015, during one of the most beautiful Aurora displays I have ever witnessed. A big thank you goes to my wife Anca, who joined me for this camping trip up the mountain and who understands all my nocturnal escapades for shooting the night sky. That day, I looked at some satellite data and decided we should go up as something was going to happen. Being an astrophysicist helps a lot when shooting the Northern Lights as it gives you a deeper understanding of the phenomenon and lets you better plan your photo sessions. Went up around 7PM and, as soon as the Sun set, the sky went on fire. Green, purple, pink fire. What an amazing night we had. I started astrophotography a long time ago, when I was 13 years old. Now, I am 32. I’m not doing it for the […]
I took my first astrophoto around twenty years ago. With a Smena 5 camera and a 40mm f/5.6 lens – a camera not very well suited for astrophotography. Then, things got better. I had a Zenit and a Praktica, but I settled for an Olympus OM-1, probably the best 35mm film camera for astrophotography. My parents bought me a 50mm f/1.4 lens; I was hoping for an f/1.2, but it was too expensive for their budget. I used the OM-1 for many years and I fell in love with it and its range of lenses. Some more years passed, and film cameras were surpassed in performance by digital technology. As, outside my astrophotography, I was shooting with a Canon SLR. it made sense for me to choose Canon DSLR as my main camera. Being a professional photographer, I used almost all top lenses out there, no matter the manufacturer. Of course, I was using the same lenses for my astrophotography. And then, I had a problem. My expensive lenses, which allowed enough detail to print wall sized advertising photos, were not exceptional for astrophotography. What was wrong? When I was shooting wide open (and you need that in astrophotography from […]
I get this question very frequently, whenever I post a photo depicting the Aurora Borealis.
The answer is simple, but complicated: It depends. :) There is no universal recipe for photographing the Northern Lights, but there are some general aspects that have to be taken care of.