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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

The Galaxy and the Supervolcano

By Phil Plait

There are certain emails I open right away. And Iâve learned that if the sender is astrophotographer Babak Tafreshi, I need to see what heâs sent me right now.

That lesson was driven home recently when Babak sent this ridiculously gorgeous photo he took in Yellowstone National Park:

Yeah, you very much want to click to embiggen that. He took it on July 5, 2013, and it shows Mammoth hot springs in Yellowstone with the Milky Way glowing above it. You can see the pinkly-glowing Lagoon Nebula and the red supergiant Antares above the springs.

I asked him how he took it, and I was astonished when he told me this was a single 25-second exposure! I thought it must be a composite somehow, but the trick was that he briefly illuminated the rocks with a portable studio light, allowing them to be seen. The result from that simple move is this beautiful and compelling shot.

Babak is one of the photographers with the wonderful project called The World at Night, or TWAN. They take pictures of the sky with well-known or stunning foregrounds, to highlight the natural beauty of our planet and the heavens above it. There are several photos at the TWAN site of Yellowstone, including this simply jaw-dropping shot of Old Faithful with the stars of Sagittarius behind it. That one has to be seen to be believed.

I met Babak in person last year at the Arizona Astronomy Expo, but I was already quite familiar with his work; Iâve posted quite a few of his pictures on the blog. Iâve included a list below.

His photography is a perfect match with TWAN, since he travels the globe looking for the best scenery to accentuate the night sky. And his finished products are always incredibly lovely to behold. I am deeply indebted to photographers like Babak, and all the others who send me their work. I have a profound love of astronomical photography, and what they do simply and wonderfully strengthens that feeling.

More of Babak Tafreshiâs work:

Satellite Tumblr
Transit on the Midnight Sun (seriously, must see)
Time-Lapse Video: Island in the Sky
An Astronomerâs Paradise
A Puff of Celestial Smoke
Go See Comet Pan-STARRS While You Can!
The Southern Skies, Lit Like Neon

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