Friday, April 24, 2009

Take Five!

Or should I call this post “Me and My Camera Having a Night Out”? When we went to France for Easter I was very keen to take some night shots with my new tripod and infra-red remote control. Our house is way out, deep in the dairy countryside of Normandy, where there is very little light pollution at night, so we can often see “the whole universe” and have sometimes had such a clear sky that the blurry, white streak across the sky we call “The Milky Way”, has been clearly visible. It is truly awe-inspiring. You just stand there and feel very insignificant.

I was not lucky enough to see The Milky Way this time, but the sky was relatively clear with masses of stars, so I pointed my camera at a few constellations. I tried different settings, timings and positions, pacing up and down the country lane waiting for the camera to do its work, and trying not to walk into the tripod in the dark; one, two, three, and even five minutes of exposure time. I expected to capture more stars with increasing exposure, but I also experienced one rather unexpected effect (apart from the slight light pollution in the top corners, coming from a couple of villages miles away).

At first I was disappointed with the fuzzy shots, in particular the five-minute shots; that was until I realised I had captured the image of five minutes! Look at the picture in detail and see if you can figure out what the Dickins I am talking about. You might need to click on it to enlarge it, to see the pattern more clearly. This is what five minutes look like.

What five minutes? See the lines, which actually are innumerable stars, stretching in a circular pattern? No, I did not move the camera, the stars did not move, but the earth spun around its axis for five minutes!

My camera was pointing roughly to the North, the earth spun one way, making the stars seemingly draw lines the other way. If you look really closely you might possibly see that there is a centre point towards the bottom around which everything seems to have turned. That is where our earth’s North-South axis is pointing, the North Celestial Pole.

What a dizzying thought! I had captured an image of five minutes. I had truly taken five.

For more Easter pictures (part 2), go to my photo blog, Camera Digitalis.


GutsyWriter said...

Great photo. I thought you wanted me to see a flying saucer and the brown line, I thought that was one, perhaps?
I loved the Milky Way when I saw it in Fiji in 2007. Amazing sky there.

swenglishexpat said...

GW - Brown line? You must have clicked on it. Well spotted. ;-) No UFO, but I have another picture where an airliner draws a straight line across the sky.
I can imagine that it is possible to get a really dark night sky in Fiji. Most of the developed world is very light-polluted, which you notice if you try to find somewhere good to star gaze.

A Fitness Minute with Pat Anderson said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. Sounds like you've learned the importance of exercise. My husband and I are always looking through our telescope, here in Mexico, at the night sky. Maybe one day we will see a UFO....

oreneta said...

Very cool shot! It is neat that you can see the world spinning like that isn't it!

Diane said...

Very cool picture! I feel as though it's been years since I've seen a starry sky like that.

PS... you're cute when you blush ;)

LadyFi said...

That is truly mind-blowing! I can see that everything is going round in a circle quite clearly... wow! that means you captured the earth moving on its axis.


CanadianSwiss said...

Awsome picture! What a way of capturing the spinning of the Earth.

swenglishexpat said...

Pat - Thank *you* for visiting. The night sky is absolutely fascinating.

Oreneta - Makes me think of old christian dogma! ;-)

Diane - Well, you need to be far away from any urbanisation, and then have some luck with the weather.

LadyFi - I had to think for a few moments, and then I have verified my conclusions through some internet research.

CS - The great thing about it is that reality is even more impressive. You just stand there 8-O (big eyes and open mouth!).

Protege said...

I so agree with you on the awe one feels when looking at the starry sky; that is the only time that I feel how vast and never ending the universe is.
Love your photo of the moving night sky!;))

swenglishexpat said...

Protege - Thank you. I can stare for hours, until my brain overheats! I am not religious, but I do wonder about how on earth (!) it all began. I have resigned to the conclusion that our poor human brains just are not powerful enough to really grasp the idea of infinity, neither in time nor space. However sophisticated an entity we think we are, we are just a glorified amoeba. No offense! But you should know, you are a scientist!