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Astrophotography at Palomar Observatory | Los Angeles, Alhambra, Monterey Park Family Portrait Photographer

Today we have the third guest post by my resident astronomer, Evan, the other half of Bamboo Shoots Photography.  Check out our other Palomar Observatory astrophotography post and our Los Angeles astrophotography post here!

Two centuries ago, searching for comets was all the rage.  The European well-to-do would try to see who could find the most comets.  As a service to other astronomers, Charles Messier kept a list of fuzzy objects in the sky that did not move from night to night and therefore were not comets.

We took this photo of the eastern sky from Palomar Observatory.  You’re looking right at the center of our own Galaxy, the Milky Way.  It sometimes helps to orient your view of the night sky if you know where the constellations are, so we’ve drawn lines showing pieces of a few constellations: Serpens Cauda (the snake’s tail), Scutum (the shield), Sagittarius (the archer), and the tail of Scorpius (the scorpion).

The Galactic center is a busy place, so there’s a lot of cool stuff in the sky when you look in this direction.  For example, this image contains five Messier objects.

Los Angeles, Burbank, Arcadia, Pasadena family portrait photographer astrophotography from Palomar Hale Telescope / child & baby portrait photographer

Messier 67, and 23 are open clusters, the birth places of stars.  Almost all stars in our Galaxy formed in loose collections of stars like these.  Our own Sun formed in an open cluster, which dispersed billions of years ago.  Some astronomers make it their life goals to find “solar twins,” stars that were born in the same cluster as the Sun.

Messier 8 is also an open cluster, but it contains a nebula.  Nebulae are the Galaxy’s recycling bins.  When some stars die, they blow up into gas clouds.  Pieces of those same clouds can collapse to form brand new stars.  This cycle has been recurring for the last 13 billion years.  Nebulae are also some of the most beautiful objects in the night sky.  If you have binoculars or even a telescope, try to find M8 in the summer evening sky.  You will see the Lagoon Nebula.

My own favorite object is Messier 22.  It is a very tight group of stars called a globular cluster.  Unlike open clusters, globular clusters are not stellar nurseries.  In fact, the stars in M22 are nearly as old as the Universe.  Globular clusters can be somewhat boring because all of the stars are made of almost the exact same stuff.  For example, one star has just as much iron as the next.  However, M22 was very recently found to be an exception.  It’s a very rare globular cluster where all of the stars do not have exactly the same composition.  One of my scientific goals is to figure out why some globular clusters, like M22, show some personality!

Glendale, Pasadena, Alhambra family portrait photographer astrophotography from Palomar Hale Telescope / astronomy / night sky

Kim - Not only I do enjoy stargazing through Evan’s photos, but the combination of the light on the street, the golden light in the sky, and so many stars is amazing. I love the contrast! Also, thanks to Evan for your astronomical interpretation. Please continue to do more of these!June 23, 2011 – 2:43 pm

May - Very neat!!June 8, 2011 – 6:55 pm

Marci - Beautiful!!! And thank you for explaining in more detail what is happening up there with stars and symbols. Now when I look into the night sky, I will remember to see the “more that is there”!June 8, 2011 – 5:33 pm

Astrophotography at Palomar Observatory | Pasadena, Glendale, Los Angeles Baby Portrait Photographer Guest Post

Today I’m presenting the second guest post by my resident astronomer, Evan, the other half of Bamboo Shoots Photography.  If you missed our first Los Angeles astrophotography post, check it out here!

I sometimes have the privilege of using the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory in southern California.  When it was built in 1948, its 200-inch primary mirror made it the largest telescope in the world by far.  I took a short break from my observing to step outside and snap this 30-second exposure of the Milky Way with the telescope dome.  Isn’t the Milky Way gorgeous?  Many of its 10 trillion stars are hiding behind the dark bands, called dust lanes, that you see in this photo.

Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank baby & child portrait photographer astrophotography astronomy night sky at Palomar Observatory

Both of these photos were taken in the middle of a pitch-black, moonless night, so it’s amazing that San Diego’s city lights were able to illuminate these clouds.  Want to help an astronomer?  Turn off your lights at night!

Los Angeles, San Marino, Arcadia, Alhambra baby & child portrait photographer astrophotography astronomy night sky at Palomar Observatory

Chi - These photos are mind-boggling. Evan, congrats! I never imagined that with some real skill and patience you could actually capture the night sky without an absurdly specialized astrophotography star-tracking contraption.April 25, 2011 – 7:11 pm

Kim - I always enjoy looking at the night sky and especially the Milky Way, but I usually haven’t had good luck except when camping. These photos are so amazing! (Did the second photo show a shooting star?)April 23, 2011 – 9:48 am

Larry - Truc – Awesome Photos. They remind me of the beautiful photos I used to enjoy looking at so much in the photography books and magazines I used to have.April 14, 2011 – 10:58 am

Peggy - You actually took that second photo in San Diego? Wow! What an awesome site. I don’t live anywhere near a city that large and I’ve never seen so many stars at once. I guess the key to being a great photographer is knowing where to look and how to see what’s really there. Great job.April 13, 2011 – 4:53 pm

Marci - Really great shot of the Observatory against the star-lit sky with the Milky Way…really good! It’s amazing how well it shows up considering you take in the pitch black of night.

The second photo reminds me of being on a farm in the country and looking up into the night sky. Very peaceful feeling.April 13, 2011 – 3:11 pm

Dale - Great jobApril 13, 2011 – 1:34 pm

Dan - That beautiful Milky Way can be observed near the city of San Diego? You’re such a talented photographer! I really like the observatory in the corner of the first photo contrasting with the Milky Way above it. Good work!April 13, 2011 – 12:38 pm

Xiaoting - Yes it is an amazing place!! I sang the song of exiting all the time. I like the first picture!! ^o^April 13, 2011 – 12:13 pm

May - Amazing!!April 13, 2011 – 10:09 am

Astrophotography | Los Angeles, Pasadena, Glendale Child Portrait Photographer Guest Post

Evan and I have found that the best way to meld our interests—astronomy and photography—is through astrophotography.  Today I’m presenting the first guest post by my resident astronomer, the other half of Bamboo Shoots Photography.  Evan annotates our recent photos of the beautiful night sky with some astronomy facts.  We love stargazing when we can, but as you might imagine, it’s hard to do that in Los Angeles.  Can you believe how many stars you can see when there are no city lights impeding your view?

The first photo shows the eastern sky from the Angeles National Forest about three and a half hours after sunset.  You might notice that some stars are red and some are blue.  Although you might think that red stars are red hot, the blue stars are actually hotter than the red stars.

Los Angeles, Pasadena, Glendale child & baby portrait photographer astrophotography, astronomy, stars, night sky

In the second photo, you’re looking directly into our Galaxy.  The milky streams are actually billions of distant stars.  There are too many stars to see them individually.  Instead, they form clouds of light.  The Greeks thought these looked like rivers of milk, hence the name of our Galaxy, the Milky Way.  The dark patches are “dust” clouds in front of the rivers of stars.  Some of the dust is made of the same molecules found in car exhaust, so you can think of those clouds as interstellar pollution.  In fact, they are the exhaust of stars that exploded long ago.

Los Angeles, Pasadena, Glendale child & baby portrait photographer astrophotography, Milky Way galaxy, astronomy

This last photo shows the heavens juxtaposed with a more terrestrial object: a tree.  Above the tree, you might recognize the Pleiades, a cluster of bright stars.  Typically, the Pleiades are described as “the Seven Sisters,” but some people see more than seven stars, some fewer.  It depends on how dark the sky is and how good your eyes are.  If you look closely at this photo, you can probably count a lot more than seven stars in the Pleiades.  The seven or so brightest stars are the biggest ones, but there are many more smaller, fainter stars.  The Pleiades is a stellar nursery, where stars are born.  Our own Sun was probably born in a cluster like the Pleiades.

Los Angeles, Pasadena, Glendale child & baby portrait photographer astrophotography, Pleiades star cluster, stellar nursery, night sky, astronomy

We had tons of fun taking these photos.  Hope you enjoy them too!

Astrophotography at Palomar Observatory | Pasadena, Glendale, Los Angeles Baby Portrait Photographer Guest Post » Los Angeles Children's Photography: BAMBOO SHOOTS PHOTOGRAPHY - […] Today I’m presenting the second guest post by my resident astronomer, Evan, the other half of Bamboo Shoots Photography.  If you missed our first Los Angeles astrophotography post, check it out here! […]April 13, 2011 – 3:44 am

Kim - I’m a big star-gazer myself and these photos are stellar (haha). The combination of Truc’s talented photography and Evan’s scientific explanation is perfect! You should post more sets like this one.December 25, 2010 – 5:09 pm

Peggy - Great photos and star facts. I just watched a PBS special on fractal geometry and these photos seem to be great representations of its basic theory. Both the mountains and the tree seem to be reflected in the star patterns – who knew math could be so beautiful!December 15, 2010 – 4:14 pm

Marci - How beautiful!!! I tried to take photos of the night sky on a trip to Africa. The sky was so clear and the stars looked like one could reach up and touch them…they looked so close and vivid. Your photos remind me of those stars in that clear, awesome sky. My photos didn’t do it justice though. Your photos certainly DO capture all of it vividly! Beautiful!December 15, 2010 – 3:04 pm

Larry - Those are spectacular photos, and excellent narrative. Thanks for sharing.December 15, 2010 – 2:34 pm

Truc - Thanks, May and Chi! May, we spent about half an hour total, trying various camera settings and different parts of the sky. We were up in the mountains, so it was freezing cold! But totally worth it.December 15, 2010 – 1:22 pm

May - Wonderful photos, with very professional explanations. What a combination! How long did it take you to take these photos?December 15, 2010 – 10:04 am

Chi - Wow, these photos are sooo cool. I’ve definitely tried taking photos of stars only to get totally black shots and/or little white streaks everywhere. The first photo is my favorite!December 15, 2010 – 8:33 am