NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day is one of the world's most important outreach vehicles for astrophotography. Millions of people in the general public come in contact with a daily astrophoto that demonstrates the beauty of astronomy and a well written explanation by actual astronomers that explains the science behind the image. Contrary to popular conception it's not an "award" and imagers don't "win" an APOD. It is however, a very great honor to have one of your photos selected by this daily process and it's a milestone many of us consider a baseline prerequisite to being considered a serious astrophotographer. For those of us who make a living either directly or indirectly through astrophotography, it is a checkbox that is noticeably missing in our psyche if we haven't had an image selected yet. In my mind, an APOD doesn't mean "best of the best" in terms of imager skill, but rather I think it is a good metric for what can be considered current "state of the art". A look at recent APOD images is a good insight into what current technology aligned with some artistic skill can muster up. Being selected is like getting a bird photo on the cover of National Geographic... it's not a contest, but boy it sure is a great honor and thrill!
Some APOD's are from space-borne instruments, while most are from earth, and many are taken by amateur astronomers. If you look at the earliest APOD's and compare them to the latest versions of the same targets, you'll see a tremendous indicator of how our craft has grown and changed over what is close to 25 years. In fact, one of the earliest APOD's was a collaboration between Steve and Tom Bisque and the legendary Vic Winter. At the 1994 Winter Star Party Steve and Tom used TheSky Version 2 and SkyPro (later renamed CCDSoft) to capture an image of the Horsehead nebula with an LX-200 and SBIG ST-6 camera. Steve and Tom also won the Deep Sky imaging contest with that photo and two years later Vic added color data and it was select as an APOD on October 5, 1996.
Following the trail blazed before me, at this year's Winter Star Party (my favorite event btw), I too won the deep sky imaging contest with a color image of Messier 78. I used TheSky LTI (currently in technical preview mode for end users) on a Raspberry PI (another indicator of how things have changed!) no less, and was very honored and thrilled to have that image also selected as an APOD this year on March the 8th.
We've come a long way baby... can you imagine what we'll be blogging about in another 25 years?
03-13-2019 10:28 AM