Day And Night on a Little Planet

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This extraordinary image resembling a tiny planet is actually a digitally warped and stitched mosaic of a panorama captured during the course of a 33-hour-long photo experiment conducted by photographer György Soponyai at the Hungarian Astronomical Association Astro Camp, near Tarján.

For those who aren’t familiar, these kind of “little planet” photos are constructed by taking the ends of a 360-degree panorama, wrapping them around and joining them seamlessly. The effect results in the creation of a little planet, often with the nadir (the ground in this case) at the center of the projection and the zenith (the sky) surrounding the planet on all sides.


Photo credit: György Soponyai/Flickr

But why this particular little image picture so extraordinary? Because this is not only a panorama, but a multiple exposure composite as well as a long exposure photo.

The multiple exposures were taken during the day at 20 minute intervals following the solar disk from sunrise to sunset, followed by over six hours of star trails in the northern night sky centered on the North Celestial Pole near the bright star Polaris. At the bottom edge of the little planet, one can see the nightside horizon, and the red light lamps of fellow astro-campers leaving long, dancing trails.

“Besides analemmas and solar eclipses, whole-day-long Little Planets were always on the top of my photo wish-list,” explained György Soponyai.

Soponyai attempted his first whole-day-long little planet two years ago at the same annual astro camp of Hungarian Astronomical Association held in Gerecse Mountain near Tarján, about 50km southwest from Budapest. However, he forgot to bring the necessary equipment. So he improvised and created a long exposure star-trail panorama instead, which was fascinating in its own right.


Photo credit: György Soponyai/Flickr

The next year he went to the Spitsbergen intending to capture a 24-hour-long photo of the total solar eclipse as well as star trails. But the star trails did not came up because of lack of darkness —the sun was only 9 degrees below the horizon at midnight.


Photo credit: György Soponyai/Flickr

His third attempt last year at the astro camp was cut short by cloudy mornings. He created a beautiful “reverse” little planet with the sky in the center of the projection.


Photo credit: György Soponyai/Flickr

He eventually succeeded in his fourth attempt this July. The successful execution was also featured at the Astronomy Picture of the Day website.

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