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During each Spring Equinox, amateur astronomers around the world get together in a race to observe as many of the Messier sky objects as they can in what's called the "Messier Marathon." I've only managed to do it once during a star party in Wisconin, but - dangit! - I want to do it again! Look how cool a photo came out of it this year. This is a time-exposure of the night sky, revealing "star trails," the light-paths left by stars as they traverse the sky:

Click the image to see the story.

The photo above was taken by Iranian astronomer Amir Hossein Abolfath during a star party at the ancient royal Bahram Palace. Below is another space-y shot of Iran, at Perseopolis:

Click the image to learn about Iranian amateur astronomy.

If you've never been to a star party - specifically, a Messier Marathon, and an Iranian one in particular - check out this really cool time-lapse video of the event (2 MB Windows video file).

Here's hoping for clear skies next year. I'll organize the event for Lawrence.

Best,
Chris

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Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
renegade500
May. 1st, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
These are cool, but I really like that Iranian photograph.
mckitterick
May. 1st, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
They're both photos of Iranian history... just mixed with astro-stuff.
renegade500
May. 1st, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
My bad - I was thinking of the last shot in particular, although I also like the one of the star party. Good times.
fortyozspartan
May. 1st, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
I'm always amazed at how beautiful those places actually look, despite our foreign policy.

It's too bad the US is on such bad terms with them.
mckitterick
May. 1st, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
I know - I mean, look! Iran has amateur astronomy! And women (though wearing coverings) are a big part of it. And it's a beautiful land.

When I was a young college student studying the birthplaces of Human civilization, I wanted more than anything else to visit Greece, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt. Now, I dunno. Most of those are off-limits to Westerners.
arian1
May. 1st, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
You can still go actually. It's not off-limits, just hard to get to and you have no State Department support (consulate, etc.).
mckitterick
May. 1st, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
...and, y'know, a big crosshair tattooed across my forehead. Ironic that Iran is probably the safest of those countries for an American to visit. Though that would probably put you on a State Dep't. watchlist.
renegade500
May. 1st, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
Apparently so will reading Catcher on the Rye - nothing is sacred anymore.
arian1
May. 1st, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
Stuff like this makes me proud of my heritage.
mckitterick
May. 1st, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
Thought you'd like that.
arian1
May. 1st, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
I do man. Thanks.
siro_gravity
May. 1st, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
OMGGGGGGGG!!! this is so kewl!!!! that top image, with the TONS of star trails is just amazing! i also love all the little squiggles of light in the foreground. there's this photographer named Richard Misrach who did a book of sky pictures, and an entire section is dedicated to star trails. my students love looking at his work. there's one image in particular, of mars and air traffic over las vegas that is so interesting. i like the relationships between human-made trails and star trails.

i looked for information on messier objects. and all i can tell is that they are not stars and not comets. so what the hell are they?

i wish i could go to one of those parties. i think science geeks have more fun than photographers do.

have a sassy day!
s
mckitterick
May. 1st, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
Sorry, I should have clarified. The Messier Objects are comet-like things that Charles Messier documented in his search for comets. He made a detailed list to help others in their comet hunts, but this list has turned out to be a valuable tool for amateur astronomers: They are all within reach of a backyard telescope.

Here's the full chart of Messier Objects, courtesy of Wikipedia:
siro_gravity
May. 1st, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC)
so WOW!!! honestly, i wouldn't know a globular cluster from a diffuse nebula, but i do know "WOW" when i see it! so if i took a telescope into my back yard, would i be able to see things that looked like this? or would it just look like dots?
mckitterick
May. 1st, 2008 08:23 pm (UTC)
Well, you'd be able to see all these things, but they wouldn't have color to your naked eye (too low-light for our retinas to register color), and they wouldn't look as dramatic. Basically, only the star clusters look a lot like you see here. But it's still damned cool to find one of these on your own and know what it is.
siro_gravity
May. 2nd, 2008 05:24 am (UTC)
someone gave me a telescope. it's super old, but kind of interesting, and it even came with its own wooden tripod. i think i'll give it a try, although i probably won't know what i'm looking at!! :D
thanks!
s
mckitterick
May. 2nd, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
Cool! Start with some of the biggest, brightest objects that are pretty much overhead (the planets are usually the best for first-timers, of course). Use the lowest-power eyepiece (the largest in millimeters), and only move up to the next-higer power (next-smaller focal length) if you need to do so.

Check out Astronomy Magazine online for observing tips.
mckitterick
May. 1st, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
Specifically, referring to objects in the photo I just posted, they're things like diffuse nebulae (M1), globular clusters (M2), planetary nebulae (M57), galaxies (M31), open clusters (M7), and more.
steve98052
May. 6th, 2008 11:10 am (UTC)

Great pictures. There are so many places that would be fascinating to visit if the Bush administration hadn't fucked them up.

Also, for people who complain about picture size, specifying dimensions on an image doesn't change the download time, just the amount of screen space they take up. Forcing the first image to 600×400 put a lot of moire into it too. Resizing manually and making a copy is a hassle though. (It's not an issue for me, since I have 3 Gbps broadband now, but dial-up people, if any read your journal, might be annoyed.)

mckitterick
May. 6th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I don't think I'll be copying & saving; the reason for resizing is to help those who use narrow LJ styles.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )