Andromeda Galaxy

Adam Evans’ photo of the Andromeda Galaxy, Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for 15 December 2012

For photography enthusiast Adam Evans, the true allure in capturing an image lies in shooting upwards. Evans, who works at Google Maps, said that his interest and education in aerial and satellite mapping is related to what he calls his “astronomy hobby.”

“Mapping cameras point downward from aircraft or satellites, and astrophotography cameras point upwards from earth to space,” he said. “A lot of the techniques and challenges are similar, such as dealing with the atmosphere’s effects.”

Evans said his passion for astrophotography began in 2006, when he got into telescopes. “Astrophotography is kind of like time travel,” Evans explained. “It lets us look deep into the past. We’re seeing the potential birthplace of new stars in a distant galaxy[,] but it’s all taking place millions of years ago!”

Evans’ stunning photo of the Andromeda Galaxy is the Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for 15 December 2012. The image is particularly special to him and required combining multiple long exposures with a sensitive camera in order to capture the distant galaxy’s faint starlight. And yet, the difficulties of photographing the Andromeda Galaxy are just one of the many challenges when it comes to astrophotography.

“Deep sky astrophotography [is] somewhat tricky,” he said. “By opening the shutter for such a long time, we need to compensate for the rotation of the Earth, and for the effects of light pollution in the night sky.  By using special filters, we can see photons that the human eye is not sensitive to, such as the glowing hydrogen gas clouds (nebulae) that are presently giving birth to new stars in that distant galaxy.” In the photo of Andromeda, these gas clouds are shown as a bright pink hue.

Evans describes himself as “a big believer in open sharing of images” on Wikimedia Commons and elsewhere. “One of the lesser-known benefits of…Commons is the creation of a large database of useful reference images,” Evans said. “The amateur astrophotography community has assisted professional and research astronomy by openly sharing their images. [They’re] helping to catalog a huge swath of sky that is difficult to cover regularly with specialized research telescopes.”

Evans hopes that his images will inspire those who see them to attempt to understand the universe. “I hope that others…will be as humbled as I am by the immensity of space,” he said. Evans has a similar aspiration for his newborn daughter, whom he hopes will one day share his love for the stars.

You can see more of Evans’ astrophotography here.

Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern