Astrophotography in India - V

  Astrophotography in India - V   Stacking As a child, I used to find NASA images hauntingly beautiful. Resplendent nebulae looked like carefully sprinkled gulal across the canvas of the universe; they were nothing short of mesmerizing. I am sure I was, but one of billions, who found inspiration from those photographs. As a grown up, I got a chance to work in labs where instead of peering up though telescopes, I was looking down the eyepiece of microscopes. The microscopic world can be just as mesmerizing as if it is a universe unto itself. The issues that astronomers face is often the same ones plaguing those who are trying to image the universe of microbes – poor signal to noise ratio, optical train effects etc. Over my years of experience with optical microscopy, I learnt important image processing techniques and basics. Little did I know then, that they would come in very handy when I started astrophotography. Deep-sky astrophotography if often an uphill battle against noise. Fo

Astrophotography in India - IV

   Astrophotography in India - IV   Equipment The idea of photographing nebulae and galaxies may sound daunting to many – and it is – your journey can start with a simple set of instruments. Perhaps, the ideal place to start is with a good DSLR camera, a good lens and a tripod. With this simple set, you may not get the best possible outcome, but it can give you a taste of what can be. Moreover with a bit of early hands-on experience, you can decide on which accessories will be best for you.  We will start from the most basic setup and keep adding the equipment as we actually did in our journey as well.  Essential Gear   A sturdy tripod A DSLR Camera Star-tracker Laptop/ Intervalometer to control your camera A mobile app to locate sky objects Let’s take a look at each one of them. 1. Tripod:  As has been explained earlier, no matter what kind of night sky object you want to capture you either will have to take long exposure shots or take shots with high magnification. Even with short ex

Astrophotography in India - III

  Astrophotography in India - III   Essentials “I am extremely pleased that you have taken up the question of the bending of light with so much zeal”; the year was 1912 when Einstein wrote these words to Erwin Freundlich. Erwin was a young German astronomer, who had decided to embark on an expedition to make astronomical observations to confirm the theory of space-time being developed by Einstein. The targeted celestial event was to be the solar eclipse of 1914, which passed over Crimea, Russia. But fate had other plans for Erwin -   World War I broke out and he was arrested by the Russians. This was a boon in disguise as Einstein’s theory of ‘general relativity’ was still in the works and the theory developed till date contained errors. Einstein went on resolve the issues and crescendo came about in November 1915, when the famous physicist unveiled the corrected theory in a series of lectures. In UK, Arthur Edington became feverishly excited about this theory. After all, it meant upro

Astrophotography in India - II

  Astrophotography in India - II   Nebulas In Calcutta, where I grew up, Ramkrishna Mission (RKM) operated a fantastic library in city’s Golpark area. The library’s amazing repertoire of books were often out of my financial reach. Of the library’s two sections the children’s section’s membership fee was a pittance, some 5 odd rupees a month. The library was some distance away from the apartment complex where I lived. Luckily for me I had a didi (elder sister) in the complex who was a member of the general section of the library. Piyali, who I would lovingly call Tumpa di, and I would take trips to that library a couple of times a month. The children’s library had a section that was ‘For Reference Only’, meaning that I could study those books in the library for as long as I liked, but could not borrow/take home. This section had an wonderful collection of books dedicated to astronomy and astrophysics. Among them were books showcasing photographs taken by various telescopes and I would

Astrophotography in India - I

  Astrophotography in India - I   Introduction   “tapasā cīyate brahma tato'nnamabhijāyate |” The above mantra from the Mundaka Upanishad (Verse 1.1.8) has been translated variously by many scholars, but in lay terms it can be read as - the Universe expanded due to the force of Brahma’s ‘ tapas ’ and then came food/matter. It is now understood, that following the Big Bang, matter in its present form was created as the universe cooled down, creating stars and solar systems and other objects that we encounter today. From our vantage point on Earth, the night sky provides a window to the common man to peer back into time and observe the majestic creations that lie strewn across the ever-expanding emptiness of space. Photons emerging from these majestic celestial objects, travel vast distances to reach our dear planet and illuminate our minds. My love for science and technology was kindled by the soft light of the stars on which I could gaze for hours as a child. As an ad

[Guest Post] Avatars of Microscopes: A Brief History

  Avatars of Microscopes: A Brief History   The human mind knows no bounds; it makes humans look deeper into matter and further into outer space. The evolving intellect associated with the human curiosity has concurrently led to the evolution of advanced technologies. On one hand, humans made the Hubble Space Telescope to view the remotest and imperceptible reaches of the cosmos, on the other hand, they made the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) to view the atomic arrangements in crystalline and quasicrystalline materials. Both instruments are an assembly of multiple components made from various materials, which are chosen based on the required properties. Therefore, finding a structure-property correlation is important for its application. This structure-property correlation necessitates advancements in both property testing equipments (like mechanical, electrical, magnetic property, to name a few) and correspondingly, the microscopes for observing the under