Tag Archives: pictures

The golden age of auto racing

11 Oct

Scuderia Ferrari Factory

Lancia-Ferrari D50 in preparation for 1956 Monaco Grand Prix

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Chasing Water – Source to sea on the Colorado River

27 Jul

I saw this via the Banff Mountain Film Festival last year and it’s stuck with me ever since… thought some might enjoy it. I definitely think it needs more exposure.

It’s not Russian dashcam footage or anything else of such high prestige, but it’s pretty decent.

  • Best Short Film – Banff Mountain Film Festival
  • Grand Prize – 5Point Film Festival
  • Activism Award – Adventure Film Festival
  • Best Documentary – ClearWater Festival
  • Best Environmental Film – Frozen Film Festival

Pete’s site is here: http://petemcbride.com/
“For 6 million years the Colorado River ran to the sea. Since 1998 it has not.”

Pete McBride grew up on a ranch in Western Colorado, a child of the Colorado River. After a life spent visiting other countries to tell stories as a National Geographic photojournalist, in 2008 Pete decided to follow the water from his family’s ranch to see where it ends up. This is the story of Pete’s journey, and a story about the lifeblood of the American West

Chasing Water to the End of The Colorado River

by david frey new west on May 3, 2011

From the rim of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River below seemed both meek and mighty. It looked like a tiny band of water barely visible below millions of years of rock, but it was this river, blasting through fierce rapids with dirt and debris, that carved through a mile of rock like a diamond saw.

This is the Colorado River in its finest moments. River runners know it as a death-defying series of rapids, but even this whitewater is only a fraction of the hydraulics that once raged through the canyon, in the days before Lake Powell tamed it.

In its grim less spectacular moments the Colorado is not a river at all. It is an unremarkable trickle through concrete canals, and then, not even that. Just a dry riverbed that delivers not even a drop to the sea.

“It looks like the end of the line,” says photographer Pete McBride, as he and his companion, author Jonathan Waterman, find their canoes lodged in a foamy brown muck. “It looks like the garbage disposal at the end of the river.”

The two document the river from its source, high in the upper reaches of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, to the Sea of Cortez, where it’s supposed to end up, in the book The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict. McBride also documents the river in a talk, and in the 18-minute documentary Chasing Water, which premiered recently at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado., a fest that seeks to inspire adventure and instill environmental consciousness.

By kayak, airplane, and ultimately by foot, McBride explores the storied river from end to end. Growing up on a ranch in nearby Snowmass, Colorado, McBride says he used to wonder how long it would take for the water flowing through their irrigation ditch to reach the sea.

The answer: it doesn’t. Not since 1998 anyway. Tapped by farmers, ranchers, cities and towns, the Colorado River dies an early death.

“I started to see the river as an orphan stretched into the desert,” says McBride, narrating a journey in Chasing Water that carried him from the fields where he grew up to the streets of Las Vegas to California’s Imperial Valley.

McBride’s images, both in the book and in the film tell a powerful tale of the West’s greatest river. In Utah, they capture a wild river carving S-curves through the desert before it runs up against Glen Canyon Dam, where years of drought is causing Lake Powell to shrink. In Arizona, the shockingly straight lines of canals carry water to Los Angeles.

It’s hard to find a more gripping image, though, than the scene which begins the film: feet in flip-flops trundling over the cracked, dry earth where the Colorado River, “the American Nile,” as McBride calls it, is supposed to reach the sea.

Even in the Grand Canyon, the river ebbs and surges not with its natural rhythms, but with the output of Glen Canyon Dam set to match Phoenix’s need for air conditioning. The Colorado River, McBride comes to see, may be less an American Nile than it is a 1,500-mile piece of plumbing.

http://davidmfrey.com/2011/04/28/%E2%80%98chasing-water%E2%80%99-captures-colorado-river%E2%80%99s-tragic-tale/

Hike / scramble to Land’s End

27 Jul

At the southernmost point of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez there’s a rock formation called “The Arch.” There’s no point in sitting still in the world so last week we decided to see how close we could get without having to take a boat.

Starting on the Pacific side headed to Land’s End. This is just beyond Grand Solmar .

I should probably make it known that there is no swimming to where we tried to get. These waves are a bitch. We watched some crash so hard the spray went at least 2/3 of the way up this formation

 

 

 

Up and over

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on to Divorce Beach. Still on the Pacific side and definitely no swimming here.

 

 

 

 

Here’s a friend giving some perspective on the size of the rocks

 

 

 

 

To get from Divorce Beach to Lover’s beach there’s a trek across open sand. (The footprints are from people who got there by boat)

 

 

 

 

Then you get to this point on Lover’s Beach which is on Bahia San Lucas

 

 

 

And if you look close there’s a way through…

 

 

 

 

And on the other side you’re all alone on a tiny beach

 

 

 

We almost made it. Through the cut on the right is Divorce Beach on the other side and Lover’s Beach on the near side. The hole in the rock is in that point left of center.

 

 

 

We made it all the way to the beach on the right, but couldn’t get around to the arch. Due to another climbing trip up near Boca de la Sierra we couldn’t time the tides right
I’ve never actually seen the water as low as it is in this pic… supposedly it only happens every 4-6 years

 

 

And after all that we had to reverse it

 

 

 

 

To get back to the Pacific

 

 

 

 

Yosemite trip – Heaven on Earth

18 Jun

Next summer’s epic hike will bring us back to the valley here, but there really won’t be a chance to see everything. So what’s one to do? Make two trips!

Mid may and the melt was in full force so all the falls were at peak flow. If nature is your thing then Yosemite needs to be on your bucket list.

I’ll post some more later as I get around to it – this is just what I pulled off my GoPro this morning.

These are in the order they were taken. It kinda goes from “Oh, that’s cool” to “Ooooooh, holy crap.”

First real view of the valley:

El Capitan under clouds. There’s really no sense of scale here because everything is so massive, but here’s an idea – this wall is is 3,000 ft tall.

Bridalveil Fall

Merced River

El Cap minus the clouds

Cathedral Beach

800 miles in 4 days in a Challenger R/T

View of Yosemite Falls from Swinging Bridge

Midday drinks at The Ahwahnee

Merced River

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls (2,425 ft) – this is the 6th tallest waterfall in the world and the tallest in North America.

Lower Yosemite Fall (320 ft)- there are people on the rocks for scale

View of the eastern part of the valley from Glacier Point -Half Dome, Nevada Fall, and Vernal Fall out there

Western part of the valley from Glacier Point – that’s Yosemite Falls in the middle

Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove

And finally “Tunnel View.” Probably the most recognizable visual from the park

Hike pictures – Caprock Canyons Trailway (TX)

11 Mar

The Caprock Canyons Trailway is a 60 mile rail line that was dismantled and turned into a hiking trail. This is a 22 mile stretch from Quitaque, TX to South Plains, TX

 

“In September 2011, 80 descendants of the great southern plains bison herd were released to roam 700 acres of grasslands in the park”

 

The hike starts on top of the Caprock.

 

Random piles of railroad debris

 

The Valley of Tears
” According to legend, the name of the valley was suggested by some unknown person who heard the wailing of mothers and children who had been kidnapped by Indians and brought there in the mid-1800s to be separated from each other and sold”

 

Camp for the night was at the 10 mile point at the entrance to Clarity Tunnel. We got to watch bats fly all night and being surrounded by three canyon walls it was completely dark at night. The number of stars visible was completely insane.

 

Breakfast… there was bourbon and rain.

 

Heading through the tunnel in the morning

 

And this is the view we walked into on the other side. Completely different than where we came from.

 

Trundling is the practice of rolling large rocks or boulders down hillsides. It is discouraged in many areas, for reasons of safety and environmental impact. Its practice can be traced back to rock climbers in the 18th century in North America.”


 

Foot care stop. The original plan was to do 10 miles on flat ground the first day, hit the tunnel, camp, do another 8 the next day, then finish with a final short 4 mile trip the third morning. After the blisters started becoming a bitch and we realized we were making pretty good time we decided to power through and kill the last 12 miles in one day.

 

Coaxing Slider back from the edge with more bourbon

 

But the last few miles were back on top of the Caprock in the west TX wind. Fucking miserable.

And the first stop when we got back to FTW… a bar.

COTA pics – Rolex Series GrandAm race this weekend

4 Mar

Woke up at 530am
715am flight to Austin
Head to friend’s hotel to pickup my ticket from the concierge.
At the track by 9am
Get windburned and freeze my ass off all day.
On a plane headed back home at 640pm.

All in all not a bad day

Oh, and this trip reinforced my odd obsession with Aston Martin’s. The Vantages running GS are in my top 3 for best sounding racecar ever. Lots of these on track pics will be of the Vantages.

Main straight – These seats suck.

Turn 1 – Phil Hill

Straight coming out of Turn 2

Turn 3 going into the S section

Turn 4

Turn 12 at the end of the back straight – These are the section 15 seats. IMO the best in the house. You get to see the second half of the straight, turns 12 -15 (and the turn in of 16) and there’s a board right there so we were watching the live SpeedTV coverage at the same time

Turn 15

 

 

Anyway, on to the car pics.

And finally, the Vantage GS class cars

Also, if anyone is buying early Christmas presents I’ll take this Juan Manuel Fangio painting. Please and thank you.

 

The Beginning of a Long Journey… a looong 500,000 step journey.

17 Jul

Of all the travelling and random shit I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to do, I firmly believe the seed for this one was planted years and years ago.

 

 

“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mysteries, its melancholy and its charms.”

– Teddy Roosevelt

 

 

I suppose it all started the first time I went for a hike in Rocky Mtn Natl Park. I have always loved being outdoors and if I had my choice I would spend every bit of free time in the American West. From the vacations in NW CO growing up to the more frequent and recent trips to the FoCo area, Lake Tahoe, etc, I just can’t get enough. My wife tells people, only semi-jokingly, that she is the socialite and I could be content the rest of my life staring at a tree with a book in my hands.

 

 

So I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall when I found a copy of The Wilderness World of John Muir; a selection of entries from his personal journeys.

As a conservationist, John Muir traveled through most of the American wilderness alone and on foot, without a gun or a sleeping bag. In 1903, while on a three-day camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt, he convinced the president of the importance of a national conservation program, and he is widely recognized for saving the Grand Canyon and Arizona’s Petrified Forest. Muir’s writing, based on journals he kept throughout his life, gives our generation a picture of an America still wild and unsettled only one hundred years ago. In The Wildernesss World of John Muir Edwin Way Teale has selected the best of Muir’s writing from all of his major works—including My First Summer in the Sierra and Travels in Alaska—to provide a singular collection that provides to be “magnificent, thrilling, exciting, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring”

 

My job affords me the opportunity to travel. A lot. I have enough airline points to fly basically free in the US. I fly enough that my wife has a pass that gets her a free seat on any flight I’m on. I have seen some really awesome places in my years here and we have a long list of places we still want to see. All of this travelling, combined with my love of the mountains instilled by my parents has given me a bit of wanderlust.

Seven months ago I had a thought: “I want to do something memorable. Something big… something that most people only talk about doing while sitting around being lazy but never pull the trigger on. I want a fucking EXPERIENCE.”

 

 

“Anything that puts a sense of the miraculous in you… we should appreciate the fact that we’re alive. Anything that makes you feel alive is good.”

– Ray Bradbury

 

 

So here it is. The John Muir Trail.

The hike begins at the Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite Valley.

 


 

It wanders generally SSE for 211 miles, passes through Yosemite Natl Park, The Ansel Adams Wilderess, The John Muir Wilderness, Kings Canyon Natl Park and Sequoia Natl Park.

 



 

and ends at the 14,505 ft summit of Mt Whitney

 



 

USGS has calculated an elevation gain of approximately 46,000 ft and and a loss of 38,000 ft when travelled north to south.

 



 

The official length of the JMT, as stated by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), is 211 miles (340 km). From its northern terminus in Yosemite Valley, the trail runs northeast, passing south of Half Dome and then on to Tuolumne Meadows. From Tuolumne Meadows the trail turns south, running parallel to the main range of the Sierra Nevada, through Yosemite National Park, Inyo and Sierra national forests (including the John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness), passing through Devils Postpile National Monument, Kings Canyon National Park, and ending on Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park.[2] From the southern terminus of the JMT at the summit of Mount Whitney, an additional 11-mile (18 km) hike on the Mount Whitney Trail is required to reach the nearest trailhead at Whitney Portal, thus making an end-to-end traverse of the trail effectively 220 miles (350 km).[3]

 

There will be lots of this:

 

But that’s ok, because that means there will also be lots of THIS:

 

 

Starting near 4000 feet and ending at the summit of Mt Whitney, it will be a good long trek. Nearly the entire trail is over 8,000 ft so for a guy from TX the first couple days probably won’t be that great. With that in mind I am giving myself a bit to prep for this. I’m halfway through my 28th year now. I plan to complete the hike, in one shot, as soon as possible after my 30th birthday (but in ideal conditions, not in January). This means that if all goes to plan it will be September 2014. In the mean time I have a lot of conditioning to do… it’s been a while since the peak of my cycling days. With an effective length of 220 miles I’ll need to cover 11 miles/day to get out in three weeks. It sounds easy, and I would love to complete it in two weeks (15-16 mi/day), but shit happens.

And though I’ve told two or three people about this plan (with a loose invite) over the past 7 months, I’m also thinking about doing it solo.

Thoreau on foot, if you will.

My wife, who is an incredibly supportive person has actually encouraged this, and even had another great idea. I’m a bit of a nerd [understatement], I love to read, and research is fun to me, so I might try to write a book after all of this. Part journey, part history lesson, part wilderness education. I figure I can channel a bit of T. Roosevelt and a bit of Muir and come up with something at least semi worthy of reading.

Also, her first book is being printed right now… so maybe I just don’t want to be the only one in the house (other than the dogs) without my own ISBN number.

Anyway, this is all pretty pointless at the moment, but I might pop in with some gear or training updates now and then. I have some wilderness medical training (NOLS), but I’ll need to brush up on my orienteering… I’ll be spending time/money on new gear (lightweight, obv)… It should be a fucking fun time. Also, I’m really bored in an airport waiting for a long delayed flight to bring me home. Any other day I probably wouldn’t have typed this for you people.

 

 

tl;dr
I’m gonna walk a lot. There will be trees. Maybe bears. Fuck bears.

 

 

Anyway, with all of that in mind, I’m off to form a plan. All updates will be tagged “John Muir Trail”

Captain America at the Tour of California

18 May

 

American Dave Zabriskie of the Garmin-Barracuda team was the fastest man against the clock on Thursday’s Stage 5 of the Tour of California, winning the race’s only time trial around Bakersfield.

 
Zabriskie covered the 18.4-mile (29.7-kilometer) course in 35 minutes and 59 seconds, with an average speed of 30.7 miles per hour (49.5 kilometers per hour).


 

 

 

http://www.bicycling.com/garmin-insider/slideshows/zabriskie-s-time-trial-weaponry 

 

Zabriskie’s Time-Trial Weaponry

Garmin-Barracuda’s Dave Zabriskie used a commanding win on Stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California to vault into the overall race lead. Here’s a look at the technology that helped get him across the line first. —Joe Lindsey
 
 
 
 
 
 
zabriskie p5 

Aero Stopping Power

Magura’s RT8 hydraulic rim brake caliper features arms that follow the shape of the fork to help aerodynamics. The hydraulic fluid line runs into the back of the caliper, keeping it “clean” in the air as well. And while many TT bikes suffer from substandard braking, the powerful hydraulic calipers offer impressive stopping power.
 
 
zabriskie p5

Lever Management

Magura makes dedicated brake levers for the system, but as you’ll notice, there’s no built-in system for Shimano’s Di2 shifters. At the Giro d’Italia, Garmin mechanics cobbled a custom solution for Ryder Hesjedal, but in California mechanics haven’t had time for that retrofit yet.
 
 

Power Stash

The cover you see here sits just above the chainstays and hides an integrated cubby for a Shimano Di2 battery. There’s dedicated cable management inside the bike as well, to make it easier to set up.
 
 

UCI-Legal

Cervélo uses a clever interpretation of the International Cycling Union’s rules on tube gussets to sculpt a seat tube–top tube juncture that would normally be an illegal shape. Anything to make the bike faster.
 
 

Cooling Tactic

Garmin’s Castelli skinsuits have a special pouch in the center of the back. In WorldTour races where radio communication is allowed, it can hold the riders’ radio transmitters. But at races like the Tour of California time trial—held in 101-degree heat in Bakersfield—it’s handy for socks stuffed with crushed ice.
 
 

Captain America’s Lid

Garmin has a special non-production version of Giro’s TT helmets. This is Dave Zabriskie’s Captain America livery as he is the U.S. national time-trial champion. First used at the Tour de France team time trial last year, the helmets are far blunter than even the Advantage 2 time-trial helmets that most other Giro-sponsored teams wore. Garmin’s sports scientist, Robby Ketchell, says that the profile has better aerodynamics in windy conditions. One downside: zero ventilation.
 
 

Labor of Love of Speed

Time trial bikes require special care. Team mechanics spend hours tinkering with internal cable routing, machining custom mounts for everything from computers to batteries, and doing anything they can to make the bikes faster (like removing bottle cages used in course recon). Here, Garmin-Barracuda’s Alex Banyay goes over Zabriskie’s Cervélo P5 to ensure that everything is in perfect working order.

Welcome Home – A Soldier’s Homecoming

23 Apr

I saw this today and I immediately thought of all my friends who have served. While most seem to have fared pretty well it’s sometimes very easy to forget what they have been through. Some saw worse than others, some had to do worse than others, some hide it better than others, but everyone who has served comes home with something. Memories, keepsakes, friends, brothers… and sometimes PTSD.

The story below is about a photo essay. It was put together by Craig Walker and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. It’s a stark reminder of what some members of the armed forces come home with, and I think everyone should read this article and definitely look through the 50 pictures that make up the award winning essay.

I often feel that I should have served in the military… at least once a week it crosses my mind. I think back to my grandpa, a sergeant in WWII who saw action in Italy and Germany, or two uncles, one who was a RIO in F-4 Phantoms or the other who was a Green Beret in Vietnam. I think about friends (Marines, Army, Navy, etc) that have served recently. I feel that I somehow missed out on a huge opportunity not only to see the world but to make a difference and really find out what I am made of. I’ve even told my wife that I won’t be dropping my current life and leaving her to chase a strange dream, but if it ever came to it and I had to go serve my country I would step up and volunteer for a combat medic MOS… but then I read stories like Scott’s and it makes me wonder. I don’t wonder if I could do the job, but I wonder if I could handle the aftermath. I hope everyone coming back stateside gets everything they need to really feel at home again, and I hope everyone else does anything and everything they can to facilitate that.

Gallery –>  Welcome Home, The Story of Scott Ostrom 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/pulitzer-prize-winning-subject-scott-ostrom-reflects-on-the-pain-that-led-to-prize/2012/04/19/gIQAhW5HST_blog.html

Posted at 07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012 TheWashingtonPost

Pulitzer Prize winning subject Scott Ostrom reflects on the pain that led to prize

By May-Ying Lam

The recruitment ad that started it all is still on YouTube if you just search for “marine lava monster.” In the commercial, a man strides out of a white beam of light in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The man dives through the blades of a turbine to attain a sword (as a fireball shoots to the sky). Then, while balancing on a tightrope of blue light, he slashes a lava monster, and the inferno of its demise sweeps up the man turning him into a Marine.

Rewatching the video that persuaded him to enlist in the Marine Corps, Scott Ostrom has a long laugh at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. “…And then he puts on his dress blues and looks so good…I want that,” he said over the phone.


Ostrom cups his hand over his mouth as he tries to calm a panic attack at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) Ostrom, 27, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD, found his experiences to be far different from the recruitment spot. The painful long road after his deployment was documented by Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker and the subsequent photo essay won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography on April 16.
 

Ten days after joining boot camp, on May 20, 2003, Ostrom’s drill instructor came into the barracks. “I hope you didn’t plan on getting a free ride to college ‘cause we’re going to war with Iraq,” Ostrom remembered him saying. “I didn’t even know where Iraq was on a map.”

Walker’s project, titled “Welcome Home,” chronicles Ostrom’s return home from Iraq — and the resulting nightmares, hypervigilance and rage. It required full commitment by both Walker and Ostrom. “I told him he’d have to let me be there for everything, good days and bad,” Walker said.

The poetic photos expose the viewer to a tumultuous range of emotions. In one frame, light outlines the bright thread of a suicide attempt that holds together two halves of a skull tattoo. There are also heartbreaking emotional moments, including one where Ostrom weeps after having his apartment application rejected because of an assault charge.


Brian Scott Ostrom looks over his military service records and weeps after being told his apartment application had been turned down. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) One of the most powerful visual metaphors is a frame where Ostrom faces into a blinding block of light. Here, he waits for his girlfriend to pick up her belongings after a breakup. Ostrom seems to be not only looking into his internal paranoia, but also viewing a hostile outside world from a dim room.
 

Some of the most astounding features of Walker’s photography are the depth and sheer amount of time he dedicates to his subjects. Walker’s work does not offer fleeting glimpses into his subjects’ lives.

Walker’s first Pulitzer in 2010 was awarded in the same category, feature photography, recognizing Walker’s series on Ian Fisher, who enlisted as a baby-faced 18-year-old. Walker stayed with Fisher for two years through graduation, enlistment, basic training, first assignment, breakup, breakup, Iraq, marriage and frequent returns home.


Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker hugs his son, Quinn, while telling his mother he won a Pulitzer Prize. (Aaron Ontiveroz – AP) In a video of Walker receiving the news of the Pulitzer Prize in the Denver Post newsroom, someone informs Walker’s new baby, “Your daddy just won a Pulitzer!”
 

Walker’s boss had sneaked Ostrom into the newsroom so he could be present for the announcement. After congratulations all around, the video cuts to Ostrom. “This story has definitely saved at least one guy’s life so far,” he says.

Ostrom said that he just got word the day before that the Department of Veterans Affairs finally officially recognized his PTSD. He hopes that the compensation will help him resume a semblance of normal life. Furthermore, he hopes to enroll at the University of Colorado.


Craig F. Walker hugs former Marine Scott Ostrom in the Denver Post newsroom. (Joe Amon – AP)

View the other 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners here.

By May-Ying Lam  |  07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012

To Grasp a Billion Stars

9 Apr

Reposting another Phil Plait piece. This one is totally mindblowing.
 
http://mblogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/
 
 

 

To grasp a billion stars

There are times — rare, but they happen — when I have a difficult time describing the enormity of something. Something so big, so overwhelming, that words simply cannot suffice.

The basic story is: Using the VISTA telescope in Chile and the UKIRT telescope in Hawaii, astronomers have made an incredibly detailed map of the sky in infrared. This map will help understand our own galaxy, more distant galaxies, quasars, nebulae, and much more.

But what do I mean by “incredibly detailed”?

This is where words get hard. So hang on tight; let me show you instead.

Here’s a section of the survey they made, showing the star-forming region G305, an enormous cloud of gas about 12,000 light years away which is busily birthing tens of thousands of stars:

[Click to enstellarnate.]

Pretty, isn’t it? There are about 10,000 stars in this image, and you can see the gas and dust that’s forming new stars even as you look.

But it’s the scale of this image that’s so amazing. It’s only a tiny, tiny part of this new survey. How tiny? Well, it came from this image (the area of the first image is outlined in the white square):

Again, click to embiggen — it’ll blow your socks off. But we’re not done! That image is a subsection of this one:

… which itself is a subsection of this image:

Sure, I’ll admit that last one doesn’t look like much, squished down into a width of a few hundred pixels here for the blog. So go ahead, click on it. I dare you. If you do, you’ll get a roughly 20,000 x 2000 pixel picture of the sky, a mosaic made from thousands of individual images… and even that is grossly reduced from the original survey.

How big is the raw data from the survey? Why, it only has 150 billion pixels aiieeee aiieeeeee AIIEEEEE!!!

And this would be where I find myself lacking in adjectives. Titanic? Massive? Ginormous? These all fail utterly when trying to describe a one hundred fifty thousand megapixel picture of the sky.

Yegads.

And again, why worry over words when I can show you? The astronomers involved helpfully made the original data — all 150 billion pixels of it — into a pan-and-zoomable image where you can zoom in, and in, and in. It’s hypnotizing, like watching “Inception”, but made of stars.

And made of stars it is: there are over a billion stars in the original image! A billion. With a B. It’s one of the most comprehensive surveys of the sky ever made, and yet it still only scratches the surface. This survey only covers the part of the sky where the Milky Way galaxy itself is thickest — in the bottom image above you can see the edge-on disk of our galaxy plainly stretching across the entire shot — and that’s only a fraction of the entire sky.

Think on this: there are a billion stars in that image alone, but that’s less than 1% of the total number of stars in our galaxy! As deep and broad as this amazing picture is, it’s a tiny slice of our local Universe.

And once again, we’ve reached the point where I’m out of words. Our puny brains, evolved to count the number of our fingers and toes, to grasp only what’s within reach, to picture only what we can immediately see — balk at these images.

But… we took them. Human beings looked up and wondered, looked around and observed, looked out and discovered. In our quest to seek ever more knowledge, we built the tools needed to make these pictures: the telescopes, the detectors, the computers. And all along, the power behind that magnificent work was our squishy pink brains.

A billion stars in one shot, thanks to a fleshy mass of collected neurons weighing a kilogram or so. The Universe is amazing, but so are we.

Images credit: Mike Read (WFAU), UKIDSS/GPS and VVV

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