Physics Professor and Redlands Astronomer Captures Night Skies

Tyler Nordgren under a tree.

University of Redlands physics professor Tyler Nordgren is known for helping his astronomy students see the glowing, ordered beauty of the night skies.

And now, Nordgren is helping art lovers and astronomy buffs alike to glimpse the stars of some of America’s most beautiful, pristine places – the nation’s national parks.

Nordgren recently created a photography exhibit that was at the center of the Acadia Night Sky Festival in Bar Harbor Maine, a five-day event designed to encourage people to explore stargazing and to build an appreciation for nature and the environment.

The professor took the photographs during a recent sabbatical in which he spent 12 months exploring and photographing the night skies within our national parks.

Many of the photographs will be included in a forthcoming book, “Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks,” which is set to be released in January.

Nordgren said he wanted to bring his enviable view of the night skies to readers, including people who might not have experience with astronomy. Photographing the parks at night bordered on a spiritual experience for him, he says.

“At night, I see our true place in the universe without the sun to light up the sky and drown out all sense of the larger cosmos beyond our atmosphere. I see our landscape illuminated by the light of a million suns, and I see the universe from whence we have come and where we are going,” he says.

“Through these photographs at night I seek to reveal that world – a world at once larger and more profound than the one we take for granted by day.”

Nordgren says he tackled the project in part because new digital photography technology allows him to capture the skies in ways not previously possible.

In the past, photographers might have spent an evening shooting the skies, only to learn later that they were using the wrong exposure and none of the photographs were useable. But now, it is easier to experiment on site, learning by trial and error which exposure works best.

“I was able to receive results in a single evening that previously took years of trial and error with film,” he says.

See the professor’s photographs that were displayed during the Night Sky Festival .

Learn more about Dr. Nordgren and his forthcoming book.

Dr. Nordgen's summer 2010 tour in now underway. Catch his talk at any of the these locations.

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