Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Ince.
What a beautiful sight. A classic set of polar startrails over a single element of one of the most iconic ground based telescopes on Earth, the Very Large Array (VLA) on the plains of San Agustin, about 50 miles (80 km) west of Socorro in New Mexico. This image was created using 120 images spanning over two hours to create the vast arcs of star movement created by the Earth spinning away in the night while Polaris stands almost perfectly steady on the northern sky, the landscape and sky illuminated by the waxing gibbous Moon.
The VLA is one of the world’s leading Radio Telescopes and has been for decades. It consists of 27 82 ft. (25 m) diameter antennas (dishes) configured in a “Y” shape pattern resulting in the combined resolving power of a single 22 mile (36 km) diameter antenna and with the sensitivity of a single 422 ft. (130 m) diameter antenna. Although this telescope is famous enough on its own, it has been featured in countless movies, books and magazines and was raised to legendary status when it was featured in Carl Sagan’s 1997 movie Contact.
A quick note on Polaris, the “North Star.” I am often surprised to find that many people think of Polaris as the brightest star in the night sky. Frighteningly, many people, when I ask them to point it out to me, go directly for Vega in the summer or Sirius in the winter. Hopefully these people aren’t navigating or lost in the woods using these stars as north. Polaris IS however the brightest star in the rather dim constellation of Ursa Minor and the asterism of the “Little Dipper.” As far as the entire night sky it comes in way down the list at the 45th brightest. Just some food for thought, tell your friends because you’d be surprised and hey, you might inadvertently save a life some day because of it.
I really hope you enjoy this image and if you do go visit more of Mike’s links and enjoy what you see. Thanks all!
Mike Ince Photography: http://mikeince.com/
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+MikeInce/posts
NRAO VLA: http://www.vla.nrao.edu/