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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

A little sunset CARMA

By Phil Plait

Jeff Frost is a photographer who wanders the world taking pictures of interesting things - abandoned buildings are a favorite of his.

He was in Yosemite, near Bristlecone Pine, in mid-August to try to get some pictures of the Perseid meteors. He got rained out, unfortunately, but apparently he got some good karma at sunset... or rather, great CARMA:

[Click to embiggen.]

CARMA is the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy, a collection of dishes that observes objects in the Universe that emit light at millimeter wavelengths - past the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, but not as far as radio waves. Cold objects glow with this kind of light: dust, molecules between the stars, comets, and the leftover radiation from the Big Bang itself.

Jeff got to the array as the Sun was setting, and took this beautiful shot. What's neat is that they were probably active at that time; millimeter waves go right through our air and aren't scattered like visible light - and the Sun is pretty dark at those wavelengths - so CARMA can watch the sky day and night. Even through clouds!

In grad school I took a class in radio astronomy, which is turns out is very different than ultraviolet/optical/infrared astronomy. I did OK in the class, but my heart lies in the near-visible spectrum and higher energies. I'll leave the weird radio stuff to people like NoisyAstronomer.

And I'll leave you with this lovely time lapse video Jeff made called Flawed Symmetry of Prediction:

Image credit: Jeff Frost, used by permission

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