Tagged: high-resolution

The Photopic Sky Survey: One man captures the cosmos

A zoomed-in detail from the Sky Survey. Image credit: Nick Risinger, skysurvey.org, click for full-size.

Ever wonder what drives someone to undertake an enormous challenge? I sure do. I wonder what drives people to climb mountains, run across deserts or swim vast tracts of ocean. Frankly, most of the time I’m suspicious of their level of sanity. That’s because the only way you’ll ever get me to run any distance is to set a pack of wild dogs on me.

I’ll never really understand what pushes them – these incredible feats of physical endurance can only be accomplished through a personal determination that few of us can relate to.

And as impressed – and often awed – as I am by these exploits, I’m also somewhat saddened that there are only two products of these kinds of monumental endeavours: a deep sense of personal achievement for the person who completed the effort (and anyone who helped them) and – not to be underestimated – the inspiration their success provides others.

But sometimes, a monumental effort can lead to an enduring legacy that can be shared by all. The Photopic Sky Survey is a great example.

The Survey is a 5,000 megapixel photo of the entire night sky and the largest, all-sky, true-colour survey of the visible universe ever created. It exists online and can be viewed from any angle, with or without an overlay of constellations and major stars and nebulae.  And it was done by one man Рwith a little help from his dad.

Go ahead, check out Nick Risinger’s work, I’ll wait.

Prepping the cameras for a night of shooting in Colorado. Image credit Nick Risinger, skysurvey.org, click for full-size.

The Survey was brought to my attention by a colleague, who simply sent me an email with a link to the interactive page. He didn’t give me any background or other info. Just the link.

My immediate thought was, wow, I just love that organizations like NASA or the European Space Agency pull together images from the Hubble Space Telescope or other multi-million dollar observation platforms and compile it in such a way that we can zoom all over the starry skies with nothing more than our laptops. Ain’t science awesome?

But shortly after that I clicked the “about” link, and that’s when my jaw dropped.

This gorgeous and humbling experience wasn’t created by any government-funded scientific organization, or even by a well-endowed private think-tank. It was assembled, as a labour of love, by a single person with a personal determination that few of us can relate to.

The hundreds (thousands?) of hours it took Mr. Risinger to complete his task, the endless nights he spent monitoring the progress of his equipment as the custom-built camera rig traced the passage of stars across the sky, capturing photons that had been travelling billions of years before reaching earth – you can read about all of this on his site. It’s nothing short of amazing.

Thanks Nick Risinger. Your incredible effort has left an enduring legacy that can be shared by all.

Now, Nick I hate to sound ungrateful, but any chance you could make it iPad compatible? It was meant for that device. :-)

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