To gaze up into the night sky is to ponder the mysteries of the universe. The naked eye, however, is barely even capable of scratching the surface of the cosmos. Fortunately for us, Ciel Austral, an innovative group of astrophotographers, is pushing the envelope of outer space imaging to reveal an astonishing beauty. One that only fuels our curiosity.
As every hobbyist astrophotographer knows, long exposures are a fundamental part of capturing celestial objects. As the camera’s shutter remains open for longer periods, more light can reach the sensors or film, and the darkness becomes illuminated. Exposure times of a few minutes, or even tens of hours, are quite common. Longer exposures do increase the complexity of the processing however, so it is quite rare to see photographs with exposures in the hundreds of hours. Ciel Austral pushed themselves to create images with 1060 hours of total exposure time. Not only are these pieces remarkable achievements in astrophotography, they are absolutely gorgeous. They are the closest thing to rocketing out of the solar system in an interstellar ship.
Stitching together 16 individual images into seamless and mesmerizing mosaics, Ciel Austral presents stars, nebulae, and other astronomical objects with the appearance of abstract art. Stippled with stars, awash in swirling gas clouds of unexpected yet delightful colors. While the individual elements are more clearly defined than ever before, the enigmas contained within remain as opaque and compelling as ever.
“Ciel Austral” is a collective of five French astrophotographers: Jean Claude Canonne, Philippe Bernhard, Didier Chaplain, Nicolas Outters, and Laurent Bourgon. They own a remotely-controlled observatory at the El Sauce Observatory in Chile, one of the most prestigious locations for astrological observation. This gives them the means to expand their knowledge and astronomical imaging skills in the fulfillment of their most ambitious projects.