I often look up in awe at the wonder of the night sky on a clear night. As I gaze at amazement at the millions of stars and any planets in view, I think to myself “Ohh ffs, someone has nicked my fucking roof!” 😁
I have had a keen interest in photography for several years, and being able to incorporate it with my fascination of astronomy was something I was keen to try for a while. However, combining the hobbies to create astrophotography had it limitations before I owned a DSLR camera. Whilst I always try to use a smartphone with the best available camera specs, camera technology on smartphones is constantly evolving. Most phones I use can shoot in RAW format, plus have advanced settings to allow manual control of shutter speed, ISO and in some cases aperture control. This has made them excellent to use for long exposure photography in some situations, but not always ideal for capturing celestial bodies light-years away.
“Are stars just pinholes in the curtain of night? Who knows?”
Sean Connery as Ramirez from Highlander (1986)
I find it helps to say the above quote in a Scottish accent,
but, of course not Mr. Connery, pero, por supuesto que no Señor Ramirez, stars are not pinholes in the curtain of night. Stars are luminous balls of gas. Most notably hydrogen and helium which have the lowest atomic mass of the elements on the Periodic Table.
A star is born…
Not only the title of a proper tear-jerker of a movie, but what happens when matter-rich molecular clouds, or nebulae collapse due to gravitational forces. This triggers nuclear fusion reactions where, in simplistic terms hydrogen atoms are converted to helium atoms. Immense amounts of energy and pressure are forced outwards. If the inward pulling gravitational force remains equal, the star will have stability.
Life on Earth is made possible due to the energy released during fusion reactions on the Sun. In slightly more detail than above, two hydrogen atoms fuse together to form an isotope of hydrogen called deuterium. Another hydrogen atom is fused to the deuterium isotope which creates the helium – 3He isotope. Further fusion between two 3He nuclei creates a single helium – 4He isotope. This exothermic reaction creates tremendous amounts of energy, which in turn sustains life on a little blue dot around 150,000,000 km, or 1.5 x 108 km away!