Fine Art Landscape Photography, Toubkal, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco, North Africa
THE WAY OF TOUBKAL
Limited Edition Print *
The Milky Way above Toubkal Mountain, the highest mountain in North Africa at 4,167 metres, and part of the Atlas Mountains; Morocco.
The peak of Toubkal is approximately in the centre of the image - it is the peak on the right of the two peaks in the distance. The landscape part of the image is a 120 second exposure taken at 8pm, almost two hours after sunset, and lit by the moon.
The celestial part of the image, showing the Milky Way, is a 60 second image taken just before 6am, about 1.5 hours before sunrise. This part of the image was taken the morning before the landscape part of the image, near the Tizi N'Test Pass in Morocco, about 35 miles from Toubkal; it has been superimposed over the landscape to create the final image. A very clear meteor is visible just above the Milky Way, crossing the bright star, Ras Alhague (labelled on the star map). All the stars labelled on this star map, and many more, are identifiable in the print. For example, the pair of stars, Shaula and Lesath, are easily identifiable on the bottom right hand side of the image.
The Milky Way is one of more than 170 billion galaxies that are thought to exist in the observable Universe (the Universe representing the totality of existence).
The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy and contains 200 to 400 billion stars, of which our sun is one. It is estimated to be about 13.2 billion years old, nearly as old as the Universe. All the stars and gas throughout the Milky Way rotate around the very centre of the galaxy. The galactic centre is known as Sagittarius A, and is marked on the map above as 'Galactic Centre'.
Sagittarius A is hidden from view at optical wavelengths by large clouds of cosmic dust in the spiral arms of the Milky Way. However, it is known to be a bright and very compact astronomical radio source, and is believed to be the location of a supermassive black hole, such as those that are now generally accepted to be at the centers of most spiral galaxies.
The Galactic Centre is approximately marked on the star map at the intersection between the following stars:
1a) Ras Alhague, part of Ophiucus constellation. This is the bright star with the meteor dissecting it. The name Ras Alhague is from the Arabic ??? ?????? (ra?s al-?aww?), meaning "the Head of the Serpent collector". Ophiuchus is a large constellation located around the celestial equator. Its name is from the Greek ???????? "serpent-bearer", and it is commonly represented as a man grasping the snake that is represented by the constellation Serpens.
1b) Sargas (just hidden from view by the mountain but marked on the star map). The star's name is of Sumerian origin, an ancient civilisation that is thought to date from around 4,000BC through to 2,000 BC, and was based in southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).
However, it is very unlikely that it was the Sumerian's themselves who named the star, given their celestial observation were not extensive. It is far more likely that the later Babylonian culture (dating from around 1900BC) used the Sumerian language to name the star. Similar to how Latin is used nowadays, the Sumerian language was dead but the written language was still used, principally for religious purposes.
Accurately observing celestial objects was an important part of Babylonian society, since the position of such objects was believed to have meaning to human society. It is thought that initially this related principally to mundane issues, such as prediction of weather events or political matters. Over time the Babylonians become more advanced in their observation of the celestial sphere.
At some stage during the early 1st millennium BC, Babylonian astronomers divided the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year) into twelve 30° divisions. They this created the first known celestial coordinate system and enabled them to more accurately observe and therefore also predict celestial events. In a presumably related progression, celestial observations started to be used to predict and inform people's personal lives, relating the position of celestial objects to an individual's personality or path in life - as many people still practice today in horoscopic astrology.
The detailed understanding of the celestial sphere that the Neo-Babylonians developed went on to form the basis for much of what was done in Greek and Hellenistic astronomy, in classical Indian astronomy, in Sassanian, Byzantine and Syrian astronomy, in medieval Islamic astronomy, and in Central Asian and Western European astronomy. Neo-Babylonian astronomy can thus be considered the direct predecessor of much of ancient Greek mathematics and astronomy, which in turn is the historical predecessor of the European (Western) scientific revolution.
* This image is a Limited Edition Print of 500 for sizes larger than 12"x9 " and up to 20"x13". It is a Limited Edition Print of 150 at sizes larger than 20"x13".
Location: Toubkal, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco, North Africa