Stars Like Grains of Sand

February 26, 2014


Photographer: Greg Parker
Summary Author: Greg Parker; Jim Foster

This past summer I took advantage of a rare clear and moonless night in the U.K. to capture the above image of the Milky Way in the vicinity of Cygnus (Northern Cross). I pointed the mini-WASP array (below) towards the densest part of our galaxy I could find. The myriad stars resemble grains of sand. According to the Registar program, this scene captures approximately 140,000 stars! Of course, this is just a tiny region of the estimated 300,000,000,000 (300 billion) stars that reside in the Milky Way. But compared to the number of grains of sand on all of the world’s beaches (perhaps 7.5 billion, billion), even this gigantic number of stars seems woefully small. Nonetheless, if we consider all of the stars in the universe, there are then thousands of stars for every single grain of sand on every beach on Earth.

Mini_WASP_arrayx2bImage details: I took 7 x 15-minute sub-exposures using a Sky 90 and two TS 80 refractor telescopes coupled to M26C (10 Megapixel) one-shot color CCDs. I processed this data in Photoshop using Noel Carboni's Astronomy Actions and then I stitched the three datasets together using a program called Registar. Mini Wasp details: On the top is the 200mm Canon wide field lens with a Trius M26C 10 Megapixel color CCD. The two scopes on the left are 80mm triplet APOs with 2 x M26C CCDs. The scope top right is a Megrez 80 guide scope with guide camera. At bottom right is a Sky 90 with yet another M26C CCD.