Sunday, April 21, 2013

Glowing, glowing, glowing.

 A brilliant image taken by Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution) in the southern Atacama desert of Chile where the air is so clear the Magellan, the du Pont and OGLE project telescope domes were built just for the star gazing. The Atacama desert is so inhospitable that it's used for trialing equipment for planetary exploration.
On April 11, 2013 about midnight Yuri took this mosaic of 3 minute long exposures and revealed an unusually intense atmospheric airglow which is the light of electronically or vibration-rotationally excited atoms and molecules 80 km or higher. While the airglow looks like an aurora and is found at similar heights it's quite different in execution, aurorae come about by collisions of energetic charged particles and airglow is from chemical reactions to the Sun's ultraviolet radiation.
Beside the airglow, just about at centre of image is the faint bluish cloud called gegenschein, German for "counter glow" which is sunlight back-scatered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimetre sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Far right in the image is the Milky Way rising above the Magellan telescopes.

Nobody tell me if I got my airglows and aurorae mixed, my mind seized up in the finish.


Elephant's Child said...

Wow, wow and wow.

Ann ODyne said...

fascinating until you mentioned dust particles and reminded me what I should be doing instead of reading blogs. X X

JahTeh said...

Honestly, EC, it takes me 20 shots to get one of the cat let alone do this kind of work.

Annie O, me too but the Bear is asleep and I wouldn't like to upset him by flicking dust.