What a spectacular sunset tonight. The Sun is just going down in a blaze of red, while the waxing Moon shines in the deep blue twilight.
I grabbed the camera fast when I saw this happening out my front window, and raced out to the ripening wheat field across the road.
The top image is a 360° panorama of the sky, with the Sun at right and the Moon left of centre. The zenith is along the top of the image.
I used a 14mm lens in portrait mode to cover the scene from below the horizon to the zenith, taking 7 segments to sweep around the scene.
You can see the darkening of the sky at centre, 90° away from the Sun, due to natural polarization of the skylight.
I shot this sunset image a little earlier, when the Sun was higher but still deep red in the smoky haze that has marked the sky of late. It certainly gives the scene a divine appearance!
This is a 5-exposure high-dynamic-range composite to capture the tonal range from bright sky to darker ground, the wheat field. I increased the contrast to bring out the cloud shadows – crepuscular rays.
I boosted colour vibrancy but didn’t alter the actual colours – it was a superb sky.
I used PTGui v10 to stitch the panorama at top and Photomatix Pro to stack and tone the HDR set. While Photoshop is wonderful it did not work for assembling either of these images.
– Alan, August 6, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer
The waxing gibbous Moon rises over the Chiricahua Mountains of southeast Arizona.
This was the stunning scene on Sunday night, December 15, as I drove out to Chiricahua National Monument south of Willcox, Arizona for some moonlight photography. I stopped on Highway 186 to catch the colourful twilight in the east with the Moon rising over the desert mountains.
This image, taken a few minutes later, shows a darker sky but with more prominent crepuscular rays – shadows cast by distant clouds to the west where the Sun set. A photogenically placed windmill adds to the scene.
I love the contrast of Earth tones and twilight tints – a very desert-like palette.
– Alan, December 15, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
As we continue our sail across the Atlantic, our heading takes us southwest, directly toward the setting Sun.
This was the scene last night, a day out from the Canary Islands, as we set our course toward the eclipse intercept point. Our heading of roughly 245° takes us into the setting Sun each evening.
We’re now often under sail alone, with engines off. As Columbus and all trans-Atlantic explorers did, we’re letting the northeast trade winds blow us across the ocean. Under their steady force, we’re making a good 8 to 9 knots, sufficient to get us to the eclipse path on the appointed day and time on November 3.
On that day the Moon, seen here as a waning crescent in yesterday morning’s sky amid our square-rigged sails on the 4-masted Star Flyer, will cover the Sun for 44 seconds.
Tonight, October 28, was a magical night. Many of the eclipse tour folks gathered on the aft deck with all the lights off to lie back on deck chairs and gaze up at the Milky Way, with us now hundreds of kilometres away from any other lights.
We had the Milky Way above, while below, the ocean in our wake was exploding with flashes of bioluminescence. The night was warm and of course windless because we’re travelling with the wind. It was an amazing experience.
— Alan, October 28, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The waxing Moon rises into a colourful twilight sky over the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park.
What a great night it was last night! Warm summer temperatures (at last!) allowed for shirtsleeve shooting even well after dark. To shoot on the warm August night I went out to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a magical place to be at sunset and in the summer twilight. The colours on the badlands are wonderful. It’s earth-tones galore, with the banded formations from the late Cretaceous blending with the sagebrush and prairie flowers.
This was the scene after sunset, as the waxing Moon rose into the eastern sky coloured by the blue band of Earth’s shadow, the pink Belt of Venus and dark blue streaks of cloud shadows converging to the point opposite the Sun. That’s where the Moon will be Tuesday night when it’s full. But last night it was a little west of the anti-solar point.
I managed to grab this image as soon as I got to my photo spot on the Badlands Trail, just in time to catch the last rays of the setting Sun illuminating the bentonite hills of the Badlands. Both shots are frames from a 450-frame time-lapse, taken with a device that also slowly panned the camera across the scene over the 90-minute shoot.
It, and three other time-lapses I shot after dark, filled up 40 gigabytes of memory cards. It’s been a terabyte summer for sure!
– Alan, August 19, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The play of light and shadow in the open air create wonderful effects by night and day.
The Moon and Sun have each created some wonderful sky scenes of late, aided by clouds casting shadows and sunbeams across the sky.
Above, the rising waning Moon on Saturday night shone its warm light across the prairies. Clouds cast dark shadows diverging away from the Moon.
By day, clouds created the opposite effect. Holes in the clouds let through beams of sunlight, creating rays descending from the sky dancing across the land.
Both effects are technically known as crepuscular rays. You can read much more about the phenomenon at the wonderful Atmospheric Optics website. Clouds aren’t always the evil presence in the sky astronomers take them for. They can produce stunning effects. Just look up!
– Alan, July 29, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The photogenic dishes of the Very Large Array aim skywards as the setting Sun casts shadows across the sky.
If these were optical telescopes I could write that the telescopes were getting ready for a night of sky viewing. But radio telescopes can observe day and night.
Still, there is something magical about catching any type of telescope in action as the Sun sets and night falls. Here, the last beams of sunlight coming from the west illuminate the dishes, while dark shadows – crepuscular rays – cast by clouds converge toward the anti-Sun point in the east.
As part of my trek around New Mexico this past week, I shot this on Sunday, March 17, about an hour before I took the image of Comet PANSTARRS over the VLA dishes – for that image I was east of the array looking back to the west and to the comet.
But for this image I was at one of the public access areas, standing under one of the dishes, looking east.
At first, all the dishes were aimed up to the zenith, stowed I assume due to the high winds that were blowing all afternoon. But then, right on cue as I began shooting, all the dishes began to move in unison. The dishes first aimed toward me, then turned to aim up to the south, as here. It was an amazing dance to watch. It gave me goosebumps. And tears.
There is likely no more iconic image of our exploration of the universe from Earth than this array of antennas listening for the faintest signals from deep space – not alien radio programs, but the natural signals emitted by atoms and molecules where stars are forming and dying.
– Alan, March 18, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
Oh, to be on the beach in the tropics now that winter’s here at home.
That’s where I was tonight, at the same beach on Magnetic Island, Queensland where I shot last night’s images of cloud shadows. You can see some of the same effect here, as the few darker clouds cast their dark shadows across the twilight. But in the clearer sky tonight, the classic colours of twilight are more pronounced than they were the previous night. The sunset sky goes from deep yellow near the horizon, through pinkish-purple and into deep blue high in the sky. The “twilight purple” is caused by red sunlight still illuminating the high atmosphere.
We see the same colour effects at temperate latitudes. It’s just a lot more pleasant enjoying a sunset on a warm beach in winter.
– Alan, November 22, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer
I went to the beach to shoot the sunset and saw one of the best examples of cloud shadows I’d ever seen.
These are called “crepuscular rays,” and are shadows cast across the atmosphere by clouds, in this case in the west blocking the light of the setting Sun. However, here I’m shooting east in the direction opposite the sunset, to see the shadows converging on the anti-Sun point.
The effect is really stunning, yet I doubt anyone on the beach paid much attention to it. But then again, that’s the whole point of my AmazingSky blog — to call attention to neat stuff you can see in the sky if you only look up.
The site is Horseshoe Bay on the north end of Magnetic Island, off the coast of Queensland, near Townsville. I’m here for two days enjoying the island life. It has now been one week since the total eclipse of the Sun. Hard to imagine!
– Alan, November 22, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer
Following up on my previous post, here is the wide-angle scene of that same winter moonrise, taken at sunset on January 8, 2012.
This was a spectacular and truly “amazing sky,” with the last rays of the setting Sun illuminating the clouds and the rising Full Moon coming up in the pinks and blues of twilight. It is the big prairie sky at its best.
The wide scene captures dark cloud shadows converging toward the point opposite the Sun, near where the Full Moon sits. These are “crepuscular rays,” a common sight at sunset or sunrise.
— Alan, January 8, 2012 / Image © 2012 Alan Dyer