Stars and fireflies for the NASA Epod


Astrophotographer Alessia Scarso astrophotography fireflies night landscape milky way casale umbria
Monteleone d’Orvieto (TR)

⁃ Timooon!
⁃ Yes?
⁃ Ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?
⁃ Pumbaa, I don’t wonder: I know.
⁃ Oh. What are they?
⁃ They’re fireflies. Fireflies that, uh… got stuck up on that big bluish-black thing.
⁃ Oh, gee. I always thought they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.
⁃ Pumbaa, with you, everything’s gas!

(from The Lion King, 1995)


MONTELEONE D’ORVIETO – On July 28, 2020, USRA chose a very evocative shot by filmmaker Alessia Scarso as the Earth Picture of the Day. Earth Picture of the Day (EPOD) is a science outreach service curated by NASA’s Earth Science Division and the EOS Project Science Office at Goddard Space Flight Center, in collaboration with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) consortium, and publishes an evocative annotated image related to Earth science each day.

The photo was taken on the night of June 13, 2020 and is composed of 24 overlapping shots (here the photo on the USRA website). Through this technique, it is possible to observe the amount of fireflies that passed in the span of a few minutes in front of the lens and underneath the beautiful Milky Way, easily visible in a place as uncontaminated as the countryside in this area of Umbria.

“I don’t have a memory of fireflies as a child. In my parts, unfortunately, they have not been found for many years. I discovered them as an adult, far from home. And every year in June I don’t miss the opportunity to be found where I can enjoy this wonderful show. This year I went to Umbria, to Monteleone d’Orvieto. It is not only a magical and amazing moment: it is also the demonstration of the power and perfection of nature. When we turn on an incandescent light bulb, 90% of the energy needed to keep it on turns into heat, dispersing, while 10% generates the light we see and need. But when a firefly lights up, it transforms almost 100% of the energy used into light. Fireflies, through a small chemical reaction, have been emitting light since time immemorial, effortlessly illuminating the woods, countryside and souls on summer nights, showing us (but not revealing) the mystery of Nature. It is a pity that we have largely lost this form of awe due to a massive use of pesticides and above all an uncoordinated and overflowing light pollution. On the one hand, the modern world has improved the quality of our lives, but it has also transformed intimate emotions, such as removing this kind of magic from the memory of children.”

Alessia Scarso is a filmmaker and astrophotographer, a member of the well-known group of photographers Pictores Caeli, which Nasa has often paid attention to through publications of spectacular scientific shots.

The photo was taken at the farmhouse I Gergoni, in Monteleone d’Orvieto.

IG – @alessia.scarso