Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

Starry, Starry Night

"Aurora over Greenland." Arching over the Big Dipper and other familiar constellations, the aurora borealis flirts with the moon (right). Click on the image for a better view. Image: Juan Carlos Casado/TWAN - http://twanight.org

Have you seen the world at night?

The World at Night (TWAN) website offers images of the night sky captured from vantage points all over the world. The picture above, shown thanks to generous permission from the folks at The World at Night, recently was featured on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. It shows the aurora borealis rising over a late-summer Southern Greenland melt pool, where photographer Juan Carlos Casado, a regular TWAN contributor, took the image.

The World at Night features “landscape astrophotography”—that is, images that show celestial bodies and events framed in reference to the earthly context from which they were captured.  View the Milky Way, for example, above the Canary Islands, as background for a collection of crosses and statuary in a Hungarian churchyard, or over the shoulder of a stargazer in the Middle East. The website’s creators explain that the point is to show that “the eternally peaceful sky looks the same above symbols of all nations and regions, attesting to the truly unified nature of Earth as a planet rather than an amalgam of human-designated territories.”

Designated a Special Project of the International Year of Astronomy of 2009, The World at Night aims, in part, to educate the public about astronomy.  Interested visitors can scoot around and learn how to spot celestial bodies in the sky, or reduce their own input to light pollution—a big problem for astronomers and sky photographers anywhere near urban areas. Visit the polar regions page, where photographers have captured rare red auroral waves exploding over Fairbanks, Alaska, a full solar eclipse over Antarctica, and other enchantments.

In addition to seeing stars on TWAN, you can learn how to capture them in your own images by following links on the Education page. With darkness returning to the north, now’s a good time to brush up on your skills.—Kip Rithner

Visit The World at Night: http://twanight.org

To view other images by photographer Juan Carlos Casado: www.twanight.org/casado

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