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    MOUNT HAMILTON   CALIFORNIA

    2005 October 16

    Reminiscent of a gargantuan Chinese Lantern, the full moon was photographed rising behind Lick Observatory just moments before sunset. The summit of Mt. Hamilton is seen through an 8” reflector telescope from a location 15 miles away in San José, on a compass bearing of 85°. The open dome slit of the Lick 36” Refractor allows the temperature to equalize inside the dome to optimize "seeing" for observation when night falls. Also seen in silhouette on the horizon just left of the moon is the rounded dome of the Shane 120” Reflector.

    Careful calculation and planning are required to determine the precise time and coordinates from which to view this alignment. The moon rises in a different but predictable place every day.

    Raw image file data were adjusted, optimized, and sharpened for digital output.

    Some people who do not know the provenance of this photograph assume that a photograph of the moon has been "Photoshopped" behind a separate image of the Main Building and Mt. Hamilton summit silhouette — that the entire image is contrived and composited on the computer. While one could certainly do that, it personally holds no appeal as there would be no particular challenge (although it would require more Photoshop skill to do well than one might think). Of far greater satisfaction and reward are mastering the skills required to precisely calculate coordinates and photograph the moon as it rises, like an immense but benign juggernaut, behind the Mt. Hamilton summit. It is thrilling to witness this event, and it is hoped that the photograph inspires the wonder experienced in the moment.
     
    A VIEW FROM LICK OBSERVATORY

    Lick Observatory crowns the 4200-foot summit of Mt. Hamilton above central California’s Silicon Valley. This research station serves astronomers from University of California campuses and their collaborators worldwide. Eccentric Bay Area businessman and philanthropist James Lick funded construction in the 1880’s, envisioning the Observatory as a premier astronomical facility, and also as his memorial and final resting place. Lick is entombed in the base of the Lick 36” Refractor, the most powerful telescope on the planet when built. It remains the world’s second largest refractor. The mountaintop is populated by ten telescopes which are supported by resident staff and by headquarters at UC Santa Cruz. Acclaimed for academic excellence, technical expertise, and superior instrumentation, Lick Observatory probes the expanding frontiers of space.

    EXPOSURE DATA:

    Soft focus is due to atmospheric distortion (10.5 air masses) 
    Compass Bearing: 86°
    Nikon D2x
    Meade 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain Reflector Telescope
    Celestron f/6.3 Field Flattener

        Bright moon and Mt. Hamilton summit:   
        1/160 second
        ISO digital equivalent: 250
        Exposure Bias:-1
        High Dynamic Range Stacked Imaging

    COPYRIGHT

    All images and text are property of Laurie Hatch Photography; unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law. You are welcome to email me with your useage requests.


    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    University of California Observatories

    HamCam

    Lick Observatory Telescopes

    The History of Lick Observatory

    Sun / Moon Data ~ US Naval Observatory

    The photographer thanks UCO / Lick Observatory staff and friends for their continual and enthusiastic support.

    PUBLISHERS ~ This image is also available in vertical format.


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  • LH8066_Mount Whitney Moonset 26% Multiple Exposure Digital Composite © 2016 Laurie Hatch, image and text - MOUNT WHITNEY - SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAINS - ALABAMA HILLS | LONE PINE - CALIFORNIA - 2016 February 12 - 9:48:34 PM PST _ The waxing crescent moon sets behind Mt. Whitney (elevation 14505 ft / 4,421 m), the tallest peak in the lower 48 United States. Moon illumination is 26% of the disc, and distance from camera to the summit is 17.9 miles / 28.8 kilometers line of sight. The moonlight is refracted and reflected by high altitude icy clouds, creating a subtle jewel-tone lunar halo. Two separate frames (land-sky-earshine; moon) shot moments apart were composited to extend dynamic range and more closely approximate what I saw in the moment of capture. (See detailed Exposure information below.) - Astronomy buffs will also want to read about former Lick Observatory Director W. W. Campbell's 1909 Expedition to the summit of Mt. Whitney, to make precise measurements which would definitively determine whether the atmosphere of Mars had a significant amount of water vapor (To Climb the Highest Mountain: W.W. Campbell's 1909 Mars Expedition to Mount Whitney, D.E. Osterbrock, Journal for the History of Astronomy, 1989, pp77-97). - The peak immediately to the left of Mt. Whitney is Keeler Needle, named for the superbly talented astronomer James Edward Keeler (September 10, 1857 – August 12, 1900). He assisted Samuel P. Langley on the Mt. Whitney expedition of 1881, in order to precisely measure the Sun's radiation from a site above much of the Earth's atmosphere. Access to the summit was quite difficult in those days since the trail was not constructed until nearly a quarter-century later. Considerable scientific equipment was required, so the expedition camp was established and required observations were made from the relatively accessible Mountain Camp (11625 ft / 3543 meters). Nevertheless, Keeler and a companion hiked to the summit of Mt. Whitney and spent the nig
    LH8066_Mount Whitney Moonset 26%
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  • LH8067_Mount Whitney Moonset 99% Multiple Exposure Digital Composite Panorama © 2016 Laurie Hatch, image and text - MOUNT WHITNEY - SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAINS - ALABAMA HILLS | LONE PINE - CALIFORNIA - 2016 February 23 - 6:17:20 AM PST - The waning gibbous moon sets behind Mt. Whitney (elevation 14505 ft / 4,421 m), the tallest peak in the lower 48 United States. Moon illumination is 99% of the disc, and is shining through a thin cirrus overcast. Distance from camera to the summit is 16.85 miles / 27.1 kilometers line of sight. Alpen Glow tints the granite faces of Mount Whitney and neighboring peaks a characteristic subtle pink. Sages and other plants of the Eastern Sierra high desert are seen at the bottom of the photograph. - Eight successive frames were composited to generate an extended vertical panorama. A ninth frame of shorter duration was composited to reveal lunar features. My objective was to extend dynamic range and more closely approximate what I saw in the moment of capture. (See detailed exposure information below.) - Astronomy buffs will also want to read about former Lick Observatory Director W. W. Campbell's 1909 Expedition to the summit of Mt. Whitney, to make precise measurements which would definitively determine whether the atmosphere of Mars had a significant amount of water vapor (To Climb the Highest Mountain: W.W. Campbell's 1909 Mars Expedition to Mount Whitney, D.E. Osterbrock, Journal for the History of Astronomy, 1989, pp77-97). - The peak immediately to the left of Mt. Whitney is Keeler Needle, named for the superbly talented astronomer James Edward Keeler (September 10, 1857 – August 12, 1900). He assisted Samuel P. Langley on the Mt. Whitney expedition of 1881, in order to precisely measure the Sun's radiation from a site above much of the Earth's atmosphere. Access to the summit was quite difficult in those days since the trail was not constructed until nearly a quarter-century later. Considerable scientific equipment was req
    LH8067_Mount Whitney Moonset 99%
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    LICK OBSERVATORY
    MOUNT HAMILTON SUMMIT
    CALIFORNIA

     

     LH7405 MOUNT HAMILTON LICK OBSERVATORY FULL MOONRISE

     

    2015 October 26
    18:29:30 PM PDT


    The full moon ascends behind Lick Observatory on the summit of Mount Hamilton about 12 minutes after sunset, partially filtered through a gauzy cloud with darkish wisps across the lunar face. The Main Building is seen on the right, and the Shane 3m dome on the left. The large dome on the right of the Main Building houses the 1880's Lick 36" Great Refractor, which is frequently used for visitor and student observing. The Nickel 40" Reflector occupies the smaller dome at Main Buildng left.

    The camera is positioned at a location 12.9 miles away in San José.

    Careful calculation and planning are required to determine the precise time and coordinates from which to view this alignment. The moon rises in a different but predictable place every day..

     

     A VIEW FROM LICK OBSERVATORY

    Lick Observatory crowns the 4200-foot summit of Mt. Hamilton above central California’s Silicon Valley. This research station serves astronomers from University of California campuses and their collaborators worldwide. Eccentric Bay Area businessman and philanthropist James Lick funded construction in the 1880’s, envisioning the Observatory as a premier astronomical facility, and also as his memorial and final resting place. Lick is entombed in the base of the Lick 36” Refractor, the most powerful telescope on the planet when built. It remains the world’s second largest refractor. The mountaintop is populated by ten telescopes which are supported by resident staff and by headquarters at UC Santa Cruz. Acclaimed for academic excellence, technical expertise, and superior instrumentation, Lick Observatory probes the expanding frontiers of space.

     

    EXPOSURE DATA

    Nikkor 600 mm f/4 telephoto lens + 1.4x converter
    1/200 second @ f/5.6
    ISO 200

    Native Resolution: 5400x3600 pixels
    Raw image file data were adjusted, optimized, and sharpened for digital output.

     

    PUBLICATIONS

    This image is available in high resolution.

     


    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    University of California Observatories 

    Support Lick Observatory

    HamCam

    The Nature Conservancy's Mt. Hamilton Project

    Lick Observatory Telescopes

    The History of Lick Observatory

    Lick Observatory Collections Project

    Sun / Moon Data US Naval Observatory

     

     

    Sincere gratitude is extended to University of California Observatories | Lick Observatory astronomers, staff, and friends for their generous and invaluable assistance in producing these images.

     


    COPYRIGHT  •  All images and text are property of Laurie Hatch Photography; unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law. You are welcome to email me with your usage requests.

    IMAGE USE CAVEATS  • here

    PUBLISHERS  •  This image is available in high resolution.

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    LH7405 Mount Hamilton-Lick Observatory Full Moonrise
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    LICK OBSERVATORY
    MOUNT HAMILTON SUMMIT
    CALIFORNIA

     

     LH7351_LICK NIROSETI  TEAM AND FRIENDS 

     

    2016 June 16

    From left to right at the 1 meter Nickel Reflector: Friends of NIROSETI Gary Jaffe, Bill Bloomfield, and Susan Bloomfield. To the right of the NIROSETI instrument are team members Shelley Wright, Jérome Maire, Frank Drake, and Remington Stone. Also on the team but not shown are Dan Wertheimer, Richard Treffers, and Andrew Siemion. The NIROSETI instrument (Near Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is designed to detect as-yet-undiscovered nanosecond laser pulses from beyond our solar system. This innovative device is the only one of its kind in the world, the first capable of detecting such brief bursts at near infrared wavelengths.

    The Anna B. Nickel 40-inch Reflector is named for the San Francisco seamstress whose generous and unexpected bequest provided funding to design and build this telescope. Constructed in-house in the late 1970’s, the Nickel presently occupies the first dome to be completed on Mt. Hamilton, at the north end of the Main Building. The dome originally housed a 12” Alvan Clark Refractor which was placed in service in 1881. Careful dome modifications accommodate the Nickel’s larger aperture.

    What would Anna think if her telescope was the first to discover ET?

     

    A VIEW FROM LICK OBSERVATORY

    Lick Observatory crowns the 4200-foot summit of Mt. Hamilton above central California’s Silicon Valley. This research station serves astronomers from University of California campuses and their collaborators worldwide. Eccentric Bay Area businessman and philanthropist James Lick funded construction in the 1880’s, envisioning the Observatory as a premier astronomical facility, and also as his memorial and final resting place. Lick is entombed in the base of the Lick 36” Refractor, the most powerful telescope on the planet when built. It remains the world’s second largest refractor. The mountaintop is populated by ten telescopes which are supported by resident staff and by headquarters at UC Santa Cruz. Acclaimed for academic excellence, technical expertise, and superior instrumentation, Lick Observatory probes the expanding frontiers of space.

    EXPOSURE DATA

    Nikon D810
    Nikkor 14-24 mm f/2.8
    Multi frame High Dynamic Range Stacked Composite:
    1/50 second @ f/4.88
    dual flash used on all exposures, plus interior lighting
    ISO digital equivalent: 640
    Native Resolution: 4426x6759 pixels
    Wide angle lens distortion corrections were manually applied.
    Raw image file data were adjusted, optimized, and sharpened for digital output.

    COPYRIGHT

    All images and text are property of Laurie Hatch Photography; unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law. You are welcome to email me with your useage requests.


    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    University of California Observatories

    HamCam

    Lick Observatory Telescopes

    The History of Lick Observatory

     


     

    Sincere gratitude is extended to the NIROSETI Team, and to University of California Observatories astronomers and staff for their generous and invaluable assistance in producing this photograph.



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    Email for size options and price quote

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    LH7300_NickelOSETI
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  • LASER GUIDE STAR: Terrestrial Photography

     

    © 2008 | v3 updated 2018 Laurie Hatch Photography

     

    Referenced in this discussion:

    April 2008 Smithsonian Magazine

    Feature Article: “Homing in on Black Holes”

    Author: Robert Irion

     

    LH0991v Keck LGS Moonlight LH0906 KII Laser Guide Star

     

    W. M. Keck Observatory (WMKO)

    Mauna Kea Summit
    Island of Hawai
    WMKO Adaptive Optics / Laser Guide Star (AO/LSG)

     

    University of California Observatories (UCO)

    Lick Observatory
    Mount Hamilton California
    UCO Adaptive Optics / Laser Guide Star (AO/LSG)

     

    Photographs shown below can be viewed in larger format in my

    Keck Observatory and Lick Observatory Portfolios, including descriptions and shooting data.

    Acknowledgments:

    My 2007 photo expeditions to Hawaii were sponsored by University of California Observatories and W. M. Keck Observatory. Laser photographs were made possible by the hospitable WMKO staff who collaborated on the project in the most fundamental and substantial ways. I also thank OMKM (Office of Mauna Kea Management), Mauna Kea Support Services (MKSS), and the ever-helpful VIS (Visitor Information Station) Rangers who kept me safe and productive on the summit.

    UCO Adaptive Optics / Laser Guide Star technology was pioneered at Lick Observatory on the Shane 3-meter Telescope. The 3-m was the first telescope in the world to yield AO/LGS science results. I am deeply indebted to UCO and to Mt. Hamilton staff, neighbors, and friends with whom I have closely worked to produce laser photographs. My warmest appreciation is extended to the AO/LGS specialists for their dedicated contributions to my ongoing LGS photographic projects, and for their continuing patience with my experimental efforts.

    LH7310 Claire Max, Shane 3-meter Laser Guide Star 2015 Jan 5

     

    About the Keck Laser Guide Star System • 2018 Update:

    WMKO Observing Assistant Joel Aycock points out that the LH0906 photo shows a ‘side launch laser’ on Keck II. Both Keck I and Keck II are now using ‘center launch lasers’. He explains, “The laser propagates from the back of the secondary mirror, the cage at the top of the telescope in this photo, aligned with the center line of the telescope.” He continues, “This provides better atmospheric correction over the full telescope aperture and instrument field of view.” Comments regarding the Keck II laser in the following essay refer to its 2007 side launch laser, and may not necessarily apply to the newer center launch laser.

    INTRODUCTION:

    The following discussion specifically addresses creation of two WMKO LGS images that illustrate the April 2008 Smithsonian Magazine “Homing in on Black Holes” article by Robert Irion. These techniques and concepts are also applicable to the more general subject of my approach to photographic documentation of Adaptive Optics / Laser Guide Star systems at both Keck and Lick Observatories.


    Cover: LH0991v Keck LGS Moonlight Interior: LH0906 KII Laser Guide Star

      

    DISCUSSION:

    Cover Photograph Smithsonian Magazine April 2008

    2007 April 5 | Nikon D2x
    Nikkor 10.5 DX f/2.8 fisheye lens
    ISO digital: 125 / f/2.8
    Exposure: 901 seconds

     

    The cover photo is similar to, but different from the view witnessed by the photographer on Mauna Kea a year before “Homing in on Black Holes” was published. No human could have seen exactly this image with his or her own eyes. Yet it is neither a photo illustration nor a photo composite. It is a single fifteen-minute exposure of the Keck II Adaptive Optics Laser as recorded with a digital camera. For that reason the laser appears far more saturated than the “dim amber pencil beam” that author Rob Irion accurately describes in the article.

    The human eye collects light for only 1/10 second before refreshing with a new view; otherwise we would continually see after-images of where we have just been. Thus, the long exposure in the cover image integrated 9000 times more light than could the human eye. (Relative apertures and quantum efficiencies are additional factors.) Not only is the photographed laser more vivid than the visual observation described in the article, but paths of apparent star motion on the sky are also inscribed as star trails instead of the point sources we see with our eyes. (It is of course earth's speedy rotation with respect to the virtually imperceptible movement of the celestial sphere that generates star trail paths in images such as this.)

    The cover photograph was made on April 5, 2007, three months before Dr. Andrea Ghez was in Hawai
    i for her Keck observing run. (Ghez and her research are the subject of the “Black Holes” story.) The April observers were studying quasars, with the Keck II telescope and laser pointed high in the sky in a northerly direction. Had the photograph been made when Dr. Ghez was at the helm in July 2007, the telescope would most likely have been pointed toward the south and somewhat closer to the horizon at the primary region of her research: the area surrounding the black hole at our galactic center in Sagittarius.

    Close inspection of the cover photo reveals a laser beam subtly spread by its tracking motion. If pointed further from the meridian or celestial pole, the beam would probably have appeared in a fifteen-minute digital exposure as an elongated, rust-colored fan — a record of the laser’s more pronounced arc across the sky as the telescope tracked the invisible source.

    The laser is exceptionally bright and narrow in the cover photograph for several reasons.

    Telescope and laser are pointed high in the north, relatively close to the axis of earth's rotation. (Apparent motion of stars is substantially less near the poles than in other parts of the sky. That is why Polaris, or the “North Star”, hardly moves throughout a northern hemisphere night.) The slow-moving laser delivered a swath of photons to the camera CCD which resulted in a highly saturated and concentrated image.

    If one is looking perpendicular to the tiny section of cone defined by the tracking laser during the exposure period, one will see the actual extent of the arc. If, as is the case here, the laser is tracking nearly tangentially to the line of sight, one will see the minimum apparent spread of the laser’s arc, thus enhancing apparent brightness in the photograph.

    A wide disparity in laser beam luminosity can be seen and photographed on the same night. Sometimes the shaft is barely visible to the eye, even when one is very close to the domes or inside; other times it is surprisingly vibrant somewhat farther away. Visibility is in large part a function of varying density of atmospheric particulates which reflect and
    scatter laser light. Without particulates (as in space, for example), the laser would be invisible both to us and to the camera. Other factors affecting apparent laser brightness include lunar phase and sky position (translating to sky brightness), telescope position and tracking, and camera position relative to laser direction and sky background. It should be noted that, barring technical difficulties, power of the propagating laser remains constant at around 12 watts. Its varying appearance to the eye and camera is usually dependent on external factors.

    For example, sometimes the atmosphere above Lick Observatory's 4,200-foot Mt. Hamilton summit is smoky from nearby wildfires. If the particulate count is not too high, it is still possible to use the telescope. On such a night, the laser is atypically bright from several hundred yards away. However, most visitors to Mt. Hamilton don't even see the laser when it is propagating, unless they are close to the dome. On Mauna Kea, I was initially surprised to find that the Keck II laser was much less visible than what I was accustomed to seeing at Lick, even though both lasers propagate at approximately 12 watts. However, It seems reasonable to expect that the atmosphere is cleaner on the summit of 14,000-foot Mauna Kea than on the rim of Silicon Valley.

    I have found over many years of photographing the Laser Guide Star system at Lick Observatory, and also at Keck in 2007, that it can be very challenging to avoid overexposing the laser on long camera CCD integrations, even though the beam often appears faint to the eye. This is especially true on moonless nights when the surrounding landscape is dark, requiring protracted exposures to register any terrestrial features at all. Based on accumulated experience, specific exposure values and timing were chosen for the April 5 Smithsonian cover image in hopes of fulfilling each of these sometimes-incompatible objectives:

    [1] Adequate exposure of sky color and star trails

    [2] Adequate exposure of dark land values

    [3] Avoiding overexposure of laser beam

    [4] Avoiding overexposure of white domes

    [5] Avoiding overexposure of urban lights and bright horizon sky

    It should be noted that considerable calculation was necessary to schedule and capture this image so that the moon (at 88% disc illumination) would be just high enough to subtly illuminate landscape and domes, but not so high that it might overly brighten sky and domes, diminish saturation and abundance of star trails, and decrease contrast between sky and laser. There was also the formidable difficulty of producing extended, vibration-free exposures in fierce gusting winds on the cold Mauna Kea summit, under extremely demanding physical conditions.

    Although the moon had just crested the summit behind the camera when this photograph was made, the overhead sky was still fairly dark with good contrast. In a photograph, the laser is usually more discernible against a dark sky, although that is not always the case, and additional factors can fluctuate from night to night.

    In a three-minute exposure made two nights earlier on April 3, 2007 (image below), the Keck II laser appears in a close-up exterior view as an elongated fan shape. The "fan" reveals and records the path of the laser sweeping across the sky as the moving telescope tracks a target high in the south. The dome's rotation to maintain an open shutter alignment with the telescope is recorded as a blur in the moderately long exposure. “North Sky” in the image name refers to the background north polar region, including Polaris which is centrally located in the photograph.

    LH0911 KII LGS North Sky

    Compare the April 5 cover photo with this nine-minute exposure, also made two nights before on April 3, about twenty minutes earlier than image LH0911:

    LH0910 Keck LGS Puu Poliahu

     

    Note that the southeasterly-facing laser path is an extended fan shape. The camera was the same as that used for the LH0991 cover image, but with a different lens and smaller aperture. The laser appears to be more subdued than the cover shot primarily because:

    [1] The moon is very bright (98% disc illumination) resulting in less sky contrast

    [2] The exposure is therefore shorter to prevent overexposure of domes

    [3] Even in this briefer exposure the laser is tracking farther across the sky

    [4] The camera is positioned about three times the distance from the domes

    One might also ask: were there more or less particulates in the rarefied air on April 3 than on April 5?

    Image LH0890 (below) is a ten-minute exposure made on April 2, 2007; camera positions for this and the cover image were very close to each other. A 100% full moon illuminated this landscape and sky. Camera and lens were the same as those used for LH0991, but exposure length and lens aperture were not. Note shadows of three camera tripods at lower right. (Piles of sandbags securing each of nine tripod legs from buffeting winds are not visible!) If it is hard to imagine that the laser, domes, sky, and land could look so different from night to night, I couldn't agree more. That is why I keep shooting; it is never the same way twice.

     

    LH0890 Keck LGS Landscape

    An additional variable should also be considered: at the 14,000-foot Mauna Kea altitude, atmospheric oxygen levels are about 60% that of sea level. Because oxygen deprivation is known to adversely affect vision sensitivity, the laser might not seem as intense or colorful to people on the summit. Breathing bottled oxygen helps, but the faithful camera remains wholly immune to this deficiency!

    LH0991v Keck LGS Moonlight LH0906 KII Laser Guide Star

     

    Cover: LH0991v Keck LGS Moonlight Interior: LH0906 KII Laser Guide Star

     

    Interior Feature Photograph Smithsonian Magazine April 2008, 44-45

    2007 April 3 | Nikon D2x
    Nikkor 12-24 DX f/4 zoom lens
    ISO digital: 125 / f/4.5
    Exposure: 300 seconds

    This photograph inside the Keck II dome was shot on April 3, 2007, with the telescope aimed at the zenith for laser calibration. The view is from the “bogie deck”, between the Nasmyth deck above and the floor level below. We rushed to that location when Observing Assistant (OA) Joel Aycock thoughtfully alerted our WMKO liaison and chaperone Laura Kinoshita that the telescope would be returning to zenith for a short time. During the calibration, the telescope was not tracking, which allowed an exposure time of five minutes. There does appear to be a slight motion blur in the telescope that is not duplicated in the dome — perhaps telescope motion occurred either at the beginning or end of the exposure. It would probably have been the latter as I often leave the camera shutter open to maximize exposure duration until I hear or see a change in telescope, laser, or dome.

    I have only been inside the Keck II dome photographing for a few cumulative hours during laser propagation. But at the Lick Observatory 3-meter laser, virtually any interior camera exposure longer than 1 minute with the telescope tracking will show visible motion blur, even if the target object is close to the polar axis.

    When I’m inside the dome and close to the laser I love seeing its ephemeral three-dimensional transparency superimposed on the sky. It is subtle yet breathtaking, but the camera is very poor at showing it. In photographs, the laser appears to be solid, more saturated, and somewhat flat. One of the few indications that it is not is when the occasional intersected star trail peeks through the yellow beacon.

    Sky color when the moon is bright can become an intense blue over longer exposures both inside and outside the dome, more so than the eye usually detects — although sometimes I am astounded by how richly-colored a moonlit night sky can be when my eyes are fully dark adapted.

    Digital Ethics

    Photo Illustrations and Composites:

    Anyone with reasonably good image processing skills can potentially “fake” an image by surreptitiously incorporating elements from other photographs shot at different times and / or places, then falsely representing it as “real” or “as it was in the moment”. Aside from fundamental ethical questions, I do not see any challenge in that, nor would I derive satisfaction from it. Of far greater intrinsic reward is mastering the skills to precisely calculate and execute a difficult and unusual photograph, or paying attention to the nuances of nature and being ready to snap the frame when the moment presents itself. Sometimes this is spontaneous, but more often than not it requires tremendous investment in equipment, calculation, and execution. And there are so many failures! Even so, this is infinitely more satisfying for me as a photographer. It is also more meaningful to those viewers who appreciate the pictures and value photographic integrity.

    In the years I have been producing documentary photographs for a scientific institution (University of California Observatories), it has been important to me and to my community that images be “real”, and not “faked” insofar as an image is accurately represented. Although images LH0906 and LH0991 were captured in single exposures, I occasionally produce composite images for a variety of reasons, such as to illustrate a concept, to improve understanding, or to blend unavoidable extremes in exposure values. However, that information is disclosed so the viewer is apprised of the multi-source or altered image provenance. I expect no less as a viewer myself.

    An example is a photo-illustration composite of the iodine cell instrumentation used to discover extra-solar planets at Lick Observatory; see image LH2162 below. The pale pink starlight beam is a software-generated illustration, overlaid on the actual photograph of the iodine cell. This information is described in the imaged description on my website.

    LH2162 Iodine Cell Starlight, Lick Observatory

    Astronomers don’t always take themselves seriously, as evidenced by this photo-illustration composite featuring the Automated Planet Finder telescope, created jointly with UC master spectrograph designer Steven Vogt:

    LH2140 APF Alter Ego, Lick Observatory

    The camera doesn’t lie — or does it?

    Sometimes limitations in image capture media and equipment — film, CCD, lens, etc. — distort accuracy of the image to a degree where I believe adjustment is both necessary and justified to return the image closer to “reality”. For example, some types of film render the laser color as green due to the emulsion’s inability to correctly register the sodium yellow laser color. I believe it would be irresponsible to perpetrate images in which the laser is green instead of sodium yellow, and I know my scientific constituency agrees as I have discussed it with leaders in the field. The CCD in my digital camera much more accurately captures the nuanced saffron shades of the laser, to my relief. (Both magazine images were digital capture.) As previously discussed, the laser usually appears more saturated in the digital image than to the naked eye because of longer integration periods with a sensitive CCD — typically a few seconds to an hour or more, as compared to the eye’s 1/10 second.

    CCD development for consumer and professional cameras is a fast-moving technology. As sensors with higher signal-to-noise ratios are produced, nighttime exposures using consumer and pro-grade cameras can be shortened (if desired). Eventually, digicams might reproduce what the eye sees in the same integration period, or close to it. This would give the photographer a choice between making a noise-free exposure that more closely resembles what the eye perceives, or a longer integration showing paths of star trails and a saturated laser of which only the camera is capable. At present, I can see more light at night in 1/10 second than my camera can. The reasons for this are fascinating, but beyond the scope of this discussion.

    Question:

    Should I as the photographer intentionally manipulate and alter photographs by desaturating and toning down long-exposure laser images to more closely resemble the muted laser beam as it is perceived by the naked eye? If so, what about exposure values in other areas of the image that are different from what the eye can detect?

    Cover Image Perspective Adjustment:

    In the interests of maintaining scientific accuracy, the cover image required a post-capture perspective adjustment:

    Although the laser extends about 90 kilometers into the atmosphere, its full length cannot be seen. The thin ochre probe seems to disappear into the sky, but in fact extends far beyond. This is due to a variety of reasons that will not be addressed here. (This part of the photograph was cropped on the Smithsonian cover, but it is visible in the master image.) To capture the transition area in the photograph, I needed a lens that would allow the widest possible field of view while retaining sharp detail. In my kit the best choice was a 10.5 mm f/2.8 fisheye. However, I knew in advance that the resulting laser would appear with an unacceptable curvature typical of fisheye lenses, instead of being arrow-straight. Because Laser Guide Star scientists dislike artificially bowed laser beams as much as sickly green ones, a standard Photoshop filter was applied to restore the inaccurate fisheye distortion to that of a rectilinear view. I see this not as employing Photoshop “trickery” but rather as selecting the most sensible, high-precision tools available to achieve optimal, authentic results.

    A similar fisheye perspective correction was applied to image “0890 Keck LGS Landscape” mentioned above.

    Oftentimes fisheye distortion is aesthetically desirable. It can be an unusual, fun, and eye-catching redefinition of our everyday world. The fact that it is visually impossible for humans is part of its attraction, and I enjoy using it for other subjects as-is without subsequently applying a rectilinear perspective filter. Here are two examples, showing observers in the Keck I and Keck II remote observing rooms at WMKO Headquarters in Waimea:

     

    LH0653 Keck I Waimea Paul Butler, Steve Vogt LH0615 Keck II Waimea Ryan Foley, Alex Filippenko

    Commentary:

    My background is in fine arts and music. It is my privilege to have lived at Lick Observatory, and to continue producing images for the astronomical community. I wear two hats as a photographer — that of an artist, and that of a documentary recorder / technician. Both are of equal importance to me; my work results from a melding of the disciplines.

    Modern tools and techniques are among the means by which I produce and personalize my craft. I do not use a chemical darkroom, but rather a digital one. Adjustments in image balance, tone, and contrast are made not to “fool the eye” but rather to utilize all available image file data as deemed appropriate. Raw image files or scans can sometimes appear overly flat and washed-out without adjustment to use all legitimate data contained therein. There is a tremendous exposure range in CCD-generated image files, although not as broad in scope as that detected by the human eye in certain conditions. When exposure values of a given scene exceed my camera’s capability (but not my eyes’), I might shoot two back-to-back images of the same subject but with different exposure values (providing the subject is immobile). Those images are then blended together with the best exposure extracted from each to produce a single broad-exposure image, closer to what I saw in the moment. This is a standard technique commonly used in professional imaging to effectively extend dynamic range.

    Sometimes adjustments are made to overcome inadequacies in media and capture, for example, unwanted extremes in exposure or distracting flaws such as CCD noise and film grain. On the other hand, there can be aesthetic and journalistic legitimacy in preserving the authentic character and artifacts of capture media and process.

    Ultimately, I try to make the image appear as I remember it, without contrivance or false exaggeration. But of greatest importance is to convey the sheer magnificence and emotion that inspired me to take the picture in the first place. The photograph is a vicarious record of my experience and impressions of the moment, as subjective as those might be.

    Platitudes can be simplistic, but I often remind myself that there are no mundane subjects — only mundane photographers. This forces me to see the world in new ways.

    Double Standard:

    This discussion is not without paradox. Sometimes the camera sees that which the photographer cannot, and sometimes the photographer sees what the camera cannot. In viewing and photographing the laser both statements are true. It is my responsibility and prerogative as the artist / technician / photographer to arbitrate and balance these factors in the final image.

     

    IN CLOSURE:

    On a number of occasions both at Lick Observatory and on Mauna Kea, I have set up three or more different cameras to simultaneously photograph the Laser Guide Star system, both digital and film, in varying formats, inside and out — yet the results from each are never the same, and they run the gamut from tragically bad to rare “keepers”. My eyes and the cameras can never see exactly the same landscape; each type of detector has its own unique sensitivities, limitations, flaws, and strengths.

    Nonetheless, humans remain constrained to 1/10-second integrations. Although bound by other limitations, the camera typically delivers long-exposure Laser Guide Star images that surpass, but are not necessarily better than human perception.

     

    Laurie Hatch

     

    Updates:

    version 1:  2008 Apr 6        
    version 2:  2010 Feb 14

    version 3:  2018 Feb 28    

     

    © 2008-2018  Laurie Hatch Photography

    Reproduce only by written permission.

     

    1440,645
  • INTRODUCTION: The following discussion addresses creation of two W. M. Keck Observatory Laser Guide Star images which illustrate the April 2008 Smithsonian Magazine “Homing in on Black Holes” article by Robert Irion. These techniques and concepts are also applicable to the more general subject of my approach to photographic documentation of Adaptive Optics / Laser Guide Star systems at both Keck and Lick Observatories. This post was first written in 2008, in response to reader’s questions about these photographs. The text has been updated several times in the interim, and a new photo added (See Claire Max Laser Portrait above).
    LH0991f_Keck_LGS_Moonlight
    1440,922
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    LICK OBSERVATORY
    MOUNT HAMILTON SUMMIT
    CALIFORNIA

     

     LH2139_Geoffrey Marcy 

     

    PLANET HUNTER

    200f July 15

    Astronomer Dr. Geoffrey Marcy at Lick Observatory.

     A VIEW FROM LICK OBSERVATORY

    Lick Observatory crowns the 4200-foot summit of Mt. Hamilton above central California’s Silicon Valley. This research station serves astronomers from University of California campuses and their collaborators worldwide. Eccentric Bay Area businessman and philanthropist James Lick funded construction in the 1880’s, envisioning the Observatory as a premier astronomical facility, and also as his memorial and final resting place. Lick is entombed in the base of the Lick 36” Refractor, the most powerful telescope on the planet when built. It remains the world’s second largest refractor. The mountaintop is populated by ten telescopes which are supported by resident staff and by headquarters at UC Santa Cruz. Acclaimed for academic excellence, technical expertise, and superior instrumentation, Lick Observatory probes the expanding frontiers of space.

    EXPOSURE DATA

    Nikon D2x
    Nikkor 24-120 mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens
    ISO digital: 400 / f/5.6

    COPYRIGHT

    All images and text are property of Laurie Hatch Photography; unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law. You are welcome to email me with your useage requests.


    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    University of California Observatories

    HamCam

    Lick Observatory Telescopes

    The History of Lick Observatory

     


     

    Sincere gratitude is extended to Dr. Marcy, and to University of California Observatories astronomers and staff for their generous and invaluable assistance in producing this photograph.?



    FINE ART PRINTS

    Email for size options and price quote

    LICENSING

    Email your inquiry / comment

    LH2139_Geoffrey Marcy
    1024,740
  •   is for Information  ::  Image Names  ::  Descriptions

    On the navigation bar below, click i to read about each portfolio when it opens, and descriptions for each image contained within. Click i again to close the pop up window.

    For example:  Several astronomy photos feature contributions written by observers about their forefront research with the telescopes when the shutter was clicked. To illustrate, in the description for this Keck Portfolio photograph, astronomers Shelley Wright and Nick Scoville explain their 2007 program using the Keck II Laser Guide Star and OSIRIS instruments.

    You will find camera data, links, and other information as well.

     

    LH4033_GoldSummitSnow_i is for Information
    1440,960
  • view in FULL SCREEN toggle F11


    LICK OBSERVATORY
    MOUNT HAMILTON SUMMIT
    CALIFORNIA



    LH7418_SAN FRANCISCO FIREWORKS PANORAMA 


    2008 May 14

    During this 15-second exposure through a telephoto lense, fireworks erupt in the San Fransisco night. This photo was shot at a distance of 70 miles line-of-sight, from the bedroom window of my home near the Mount Hamilton summit.


    A VIEW FROM LICK OBSERVATORY

    Lick Observatory crowns the 4200-foot summit of Mt. Hamilton above central California’s Silicon Valley. This research station serves astronomers from University of California campuses and their collaborators worldwide. Eccentric Bay Area businessman and philanthropist James Lick funded construction in the 1880’s, envisioning the Observatory as a premier astronomical facility, and also as his memorial and final resting place. Lick is entombed in the base of the Lick 36” Refractor, the most powerful telescope on the planet when built. It remains the world’s second largest refractor. The mountaintop is populated by ten telescopes which are supported by resident staff and by headquarters at UC Santa Cruz. Acclaimed for academic excellence, technical expertise, and superior instrumentation, Lick Observatory probes the expanding frontiers of space.

    EXPOSURE DATA

    Nikon D2X
    Nikkor 200-400mm zoom f/4.0
    15 seconds @ f5.6
    ISO digital equivalent: 125
    Six frame blended panorama
    Native Resolution: 4,288x13,016 pixels
    Raw image file data were adjusted, optimized, and sharpened for digital output.

    COPYRIGHT

    All images and text are property of Laurie Hatch Photography; unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law. You are welcome to email me with your useage requests.




    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    University of California Observatories

    HamCam

    Lick Observatory Telescopes

    The History of Lick Observatory


     




     


    Sincere gratitude is extended to University of California Observatories astronomers and staff for their generous and invaluable assistance in producing this photograph.





    FINE ART PRINTS


    Email for size options and price quote


    LICENSING


    Email your inquiry / comment





    LH7418_San Francisco Fireworks Panorama
    316,960
  • view in FULL SCREEN toggle F11


    LICK OBSERVATORY
    MOUNT HAMILTON SUMMIT
    CALIFORNIA



    LH7418_SAN FRANCISCO FIREWORKS PANORAMA: LOCATIONS 


    2008 May 14

    During this 15-second exposure through a telephoto lense, fireworks erupt in the San Fransisco night. This photo was shot at a distance of 70 miles line-of-sight, from the bedroom window of my home near the Mount Hamilton summit.


    A VIEW FROM LICK OBSERVATORY

    Lick Observatory crowns the 4200-foot summit of Mt. Hamilton above central California’s Silicon Valley. This research station serves astronomers from University of California campuses and their collaborators worldwide. Eccentric Bay Area businessman and philanthropist James Lick funded construction in the 1880’s, envisioning the Observatory as a premier astronomical facility, and also as his memorial and final resting place. Lick is entombed in the base of the Lick 36” Refractor, the most powerful telescope on the planet when built. It remains the world’s second largest refractor. The mountaintop is populated by ten telescopes which are supported by resident staff and by headquarters at UC Santa Cruz. Acclaimed for academic excellence, technical expertise, and superior instrumentation, Lick Observatory probes the expanding frontiers of space.

    EXPOSURE DATA

    Nikon D2X
    Nikkor 200-400mm zoom f/4.0
    15 seconds @ f5.6
    ISO digital equivalent: 125
    Six frame blended panorama
    Native Resolution: 4,288x13,016 pixels
    Raw image file data were adjusted, optimized, and sharpened for digital output.

    COPYRIGHT

    All images and text are property of Laurie Hatch Photography; unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law. You are welcome to email me with your useage requests.




    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    University of California Observatories

    HamCam

    Lick Observatory Telescopes

    The History of Lick Observatory


     




     


    Sincere gratitude is extended to University of California Observatories astronomers and staff for their generous and invaluable assistance in producing this photograph.





    FINE ART PRINTS


    Email for size options and price quote


    LICENSING


    Email your inquiry / comment





    LH7418_San Francisco Fireworks Panorama: Locations
    703,960
  • view in FULL SCREEN toggle F11

    LICK OBSERVATORY
    MOUNT HAMILTON SUMMIT
    CALIFORNIA

     

     LH2139_Geoffrey Marcy 

     

    PLANET HUNTER

    200f July 15

    Astronomer Dr. Geoffrey Marcy at Lick Observatory.

     A VIEW FROM LICK OBSERVATORY

    Lick Observatory crowns the 4200-foot summit of Mt. Hamilton above central California’s Silicon Valley. This research station serves astronomers from University of California campuses and their collaborators worldwide. Eccentric Bay Area businessman and philanthropist James Lick funded construction in the 1880’s, envisioning the Observatory as a premier astronomical facility, and also as his memorial and final resting place. Lick is entombed in the base of the Lick 36” Refractor, the most powerful telescope on the planet when built. It remains the world’s second largest refractor. The mountaintop is populated by ten telescopes which are supported by resident staff and by headquarters at UC Santa Cruz. Acclaimed for academic excellence, technical expertise, and superior instrumentation, Lick Observatory probes the expanding frontiers of space.

    EXPOSURE DATA

    Nikon D2x
    Nikkor 24-120 mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens
    ISO digital: 400 / f/5.6

    COPYRIGHT

    All images and text are property of Laurie Hatch Photography; unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law. You are welcome to email me with your useage requests.


    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    University of California Observatories

    HamCam

    Lick Observatory Telescopes

    The History of Lick Observatory

     


     

    Sincere gratitude is extended to Dr. Marcy, and to University of California Observatories astronomers and staff for their generous and invaluable assistance in producing this photograph.



    FINE ART PRINTS

    Email for size options and price quote

    LICENSING

    Email your inquiry / comment

    LH2139_Geoffrey Marcy
    1024,740
  • view in FULL SCREEN toggle F11

    LICK OBSERVATORY
    MOUNT HAMILTON SUMMIT
    CALIFORNIA

     

     LH2139_Geoffrey Marcy 

     

    PLANET HUNTER

    200f July 15

    Astronomer Dr. Geoffrey Marcy at Lick Observatory.

     A VIEW FROM LICK OBSERVATORY

    Lick Observatory crowns the 4200-foot summit of Mt. Hamilton above central California’s Silicon Valley. This research station serves astronomers from University of California campuses and their collaborators worldwide. Eccentric Bay Area businessman and philanthropist James Lick funded construction in the 1880’s, envisioning the Observatory as a premier astronomical facility, and also as his memorial and final resting place. Lick is entombed in the base of the Lick 36” Refractor, the most powerful telescope on the planet when built. It remains the world’s second largest refractor. The mountaintop is populated by ten telescopes which are supported by resident staff and by headquarters at UC Santa Cruz. Acclaimed for academic excellence, technical expertise, and superior instrumentation, Lick Observatory probes the expanding frontiers of space.

    EXPOSURE DATA

    Nikon D2x
    Nikkor 24-120 mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens
    ISO digital: 400 / f/5.6

    COPYRIGHT

    All images and text are property of Laurie Hatch Photography; unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law. You are welcome to email me with your useage requests.


    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    University of California Observatories

    HamCam

    Lick Observatory Telescopes

    The History of Lick Observatory

     


     

    Sincere gratitude is extended to Dr. Marcy, and to University of California Observatories astronomers and staff for their generous and invaluable assistance in producing this photograph.



    FINE ART PRINTS

    Email for size options and price quote

    LICENSING

    Email your inquiry / comment

    LH2139_Geoffrey Marcy
    1024,740
    Price On Request
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