Let’s learn something together!

I mentioned in last week’s post that I have been experimenting with shooting the Milky Way at tighter and tighter focal lengths.  I used to think that 24mm was as tight as you could get and still practically have a foreground, but then my friend Mark Robben challenged that idea when he shared an image he had shot at 35mm, which inspired last week’s image.  Once the chains were off, so to speak, I’ve been thinking of and looking for scenes at all sorts of focal lengths – enter this week’s picture, which was created at 100mm.

So, what are you looking at exactly?  Here’s your astrology lesson for the day.  The bright yellow star, up and to the right, is Antares.  Antares is often referred to as the heart of the Scorpius Constellation, because it sits at the center of the scorpion.  This constellation is fairly easy to spot (though not fully pictured here – part of it is still behind the mountain), especially in late summer when it appears in the sky just after sunset.  The other stars around Antares (and including Antares) are collectively known as the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex.  Those sort-of colorful clouds surrounding the stars are not clouds in our atmosphere, but rather dust clouds somewhere between us and those stars, which then further disperse the colorful light.  Even the darker parts (the lines) are dust clouds, but they are more dense, and in turn block the light.  Following the dark line down and left leads to part of what is known as the Dark Horse nebula (you can see this in last week’s picture more clearly, just above the trees right of center).  In this orientation, the horse is essentially on it’s back, with one of its front legs bent, and the other extending out over toward Antares.  The Dark Horse nebula is also a dust cloud and it essentially blocks light that is coming from the core of our galaxy (also still behind the mountains).  Now, none of this is visible to human eyes (though if you’ve got really dark, clear skies, you can sometimes get a sense for the Dark Horse itself), but isn’t it neat to see what all is out there just waiting to be discovered?  It’s also neat that even “space clouds” make animal shapes, like sometimes happens here in our atmosphere. 🙂

More next week!

–Dan Thompson

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Foothills Parkway
Foothills Pkwy, Tennessee, USA

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