Sunday, January 16, 2011

celestial graffiti

Here's another of those innumerable odd and fascinating things I never heard of until recently. I swear you could write a book about the things I don't know. The photograph above is a composite image of the sun taken at the same time and from the same place about every ten days over the course of a year. The resulting picture is called an analemma, although it could equally be called a figure eight or an infinity sign depending on your point of view.

Of the few pictures of analemmas available I chose this one because it was captured in Turkey in 2005 when a full eclipse of the sun happened during the year. All of them are very cool to see and apparently very difficult to make on one piece of film (they say more people have stepped onto the moon than have been successful) but I liked this one because it was extra mysterious. The foreground picture is usually taken as one separate image for clarity and in this case the photographer chose the midst of the totality. Yes, it's convex and we know that's not right but perception is only something we agree about in general anyway so I won't try to find a satisfactory explanation. Maybe one of you knows.

Our world spins round on its axis and wobbles back and forth over the course of a year as we spin around the sun. The sun whirls through the Milky Way while the galaxy itself pirouettes around the universe. I wonder what lesson are we supposed to gather from signs in the sky or is everything just coincidental?

If you're bored, try not to think about penguins.


The Crow said...

Penguins? Why would I think of penguins?


(And only last week I broke away from having "The Song That Never Ends" running though my brain, and now...oh, lordy! Now the penguins are singing it!)

Liberality said...

I love this kind of stuff! I think of it as a sign from the heavens--everything is eternal.

marja-leena said...

Analemmas are new to me - fascinating! I love the ones by Greek ruins, so very heavenly and ancient. Talk about things I don't know, you do find the some great stuff,

Lisa said...

You always make me a bit smarter, susan. I showed this to MathMan who was quite pleased to see it.

Since I'm prone to motion sickness, I'm quite pleased that we can't feel all this earth motion.

La Belette Rouge said...

LOL! I adore that last line. I will think about penguins instead of all that I don't know.xo

Mauigirl said...

What a beautiful picture - and it's interesting how a picture like that brings home the fact that everything is in motion more than we ordinarily feel in day to day life.

TheCunningRunt said...

What a great (and exquisitely difficult) photo!

A couple of things:

1) The horizon is concave because the photo was taken with a very wide-angle lens, perhaps a 12mm (my 16mm exhibits a similar though less pronounced effect.)

2) The sun-analemma tilts as it arcs across our sky; the fact that its point of first contact with the horizon is NOT at its nadir or apex, but rather some ways up or down its form, explains why our latest sunrise and earliest sunset time, for instance, don't coincide with the Winter Solstice. I heard Uber-Astronomer Bob Berman explain this, thus clearing up a mystery which had vexed me for decades!

Anonymous said...

Actually the world does not "wobble back and forth over the course of the year" (that would be alarming), it spins steadily with its axis a steady significant angle away from being perpendicular to the plane of its orbit round the sun, that creates the impression of the sun's daily arc through the sky moving up and down over the course of a year, or of the Earth wobbling, since at one solstice (Winter solstice in Northern hemisphere) the north end of the axis points away from the sun and at the other solstice (Summer solstice in Northern hemisphere) it points towards. Very slight real wobbling only occurs over a hugely longer timescale than every year - wobbles round in a circle once every 26,000 years, so we don't live long enough to detect much of that. It's strange to interpret this as a "sign", as the only situation that would avoid it would be the special case where the axis of rotation was exactly perpendicular to the orbital plane. If it is a sign of anything it is a sign that the stars and planets are rather haphazardly arranged.

susan said...

the crow - There's nothing like telling somebody to not think of something :-) Recurring thoughts can often drive me crazy too.

liberality - Ah, nothing that can be measured can be defined as eternal but we are talking timelines that are beyond our experience. Sometimes it's good to realize how brief our experience is in the larger context.

marja-leena - Those were really wonderful pictures, weren't they? Unfortunately, I can get lost for long periods finding abstruse information that may or may not serve a purpose in knowing.

lisa - I'm sure MathMan already knew about them since such concepts would be bound to appeal.

I'm glad we don't notice the movement either but it's good to recall there's a much larger dynamic we're all part of.

belette - There's nothing quite like a penguin's ability to make us smile.

mauigirl - Seeing the pictures of analemmas made my heart skip a beat. They really are a beautiful reminder that everything isn't as it seems in our day to day reality.

cr - Your explanation about the horizon makes sense and serves as another reminder that photography isn't my strong suit. I'm glad it's yours.

I'm understanding that as the earth orbits around the sun in an ellipse rather than a circle, sometimes we're closer to it - like now during our northern winter. The earth's rotational speed is constant but the orbital speed fluctuates and that's why the sunrise and set times are different. It is a puzzle and more so because my understanding of math is mideaval.

h.insciens - I apprehend the concept of precession in that the north pole traces a circle in the night sky and I see I was using the analogy of a wobble in the wrong way. I was using metaphors about celestial movements to point out we might be better off as a species to take a longer view of our conjoined reality.

Pagan Sphinx said...

Cunning Runt always sounds like he knows what he's talking about, so I'll just go ahead and except his logic. He is not runt when it comes to intellect! :-D

Meanwhile, that photograph and what it depicts of the mysteries of the cosmos (as well as the magic of photography) is truly amazing. Why does no amount of scientific explanation ever reach the heights that imagination can bring me to? Or maybe I just don't get

Francis Hunt said...

And now I have an image in my head of a penguin singing,
"... And I say to myself,
What a wonderful world" !

Randal Graves said...

Someone stop this mobius I want to get off.

jams o donnell said...

Wow that is an amazing photo.A true work of art. Thanks for sharing Susan

susan said...

pagan sphinx - The mathematics of the image I'll also have to leave to the experts. I'm all for seeing it as a marvel, just like the fact hummingbird wings also form a figure eight when they fly.

francis - You've had me doing it too.

randal - There is that aspect.

jams - It was too neat not to share just in case others hadn't seen them.

Spadoman said...

I just can't help but think of the Python Galaxy song in The Meaning of Life. I also think of R. Crumb's Mr. Natural when he is asked, "What does it all mean Mr. Natural?"

I see these kinds of photos in magazines like Outdoors and Backpacker. Submissions from readers of the celestial heavens moving around, when it is we here on the blue orb that are doing most of the moving.
Great subject. I have a bunch of photos of windmills and some day I'd like to try to put them together in some kind of analologramiloith, (is that a word?)


clairesgarden said...

wow, fascinating...who thinks of these things, I applaud them for having such wonderful imaginations!!

susan said...

spadoman - That's one of my all time favorite songs too and Mr. Natural a favorite guru :-) It's good to remember our place in the bigger picture with respect.

I'd love to see your collection of windmill pictures no matter what you call it.

claire - They really are lovely, aren't they?

Seraphine said...

wobble wobble.
i hope you are feeling better!

susan said...

sera - wobble, wobble, toil and trobble. I am better (healthwise) now :-)