The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands opened its latest photography exhibition on Tuesday, “Solaris: Digital Solar Imaging in the Cayman Islands,” which features some of the world’s most detailed images of the sun.
The images were taken by University College of the Cayman Islands observatory director Bill Hrudey. Dr. Hrudey captured the pictures using his solar Newtonian telescope, which he said is the only telescope of its kind in the Caribbean.
Creating the pictures was far more complex than typical photography projects.
Because of the atmosphere’s natural turbulence, the solar Newtonian telescope captures multiple images during a 300-frame video sequence in black-and-white, Dr. Hrudey said.
The images are then run through special software that ranks them from best to worst. The astronomer explained that the software takes about 20 percent of the best images, and then stacks them on top of each other “on registration” – where the data from different images is integrated into one image.
“What that does is improves image quality by reducing signal-noise ratio,” Dr. Hrudey said. “And then, after that we do some other things to sharpen them, add contrast, and color and a host of things.”
All of that work is worth it for the astronomer, whose goal is to spread his enthusiasm for science throughout the territory.
“Astronomy is what gets your foot in the door to introduce people to science,” he said. “Everyone knows the sun. We all get up in the morning and see it rise and fall, but I don’t know how many people have actually seen pictures like this before. I’d suspect less than 5 percent.”
National Gallery Director Natalie Urquhart said she was thrilled the gallery could display Dr. Hrudey’s work.
“We felt it was a really great fit for our learning program, and also looking at the great beauty that he’s captured through photography and a telescope, giving us an image of the sun that most of us never see,” she said.
For people who have not yet seen the exhibition or are interested in how the photos were made, Dr. Hrudey will give a presentation on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the National Gallery to discuss the images, his telescope and other astronomy-related topics. The exhibit will continue to be displayed at the National Gallery, which is open to the public Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.