Milky Way
Milky Way, Hidden Canyon, Nevada, USA

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Milky Way: Planet earth is located within the Milky Way galaxy, a fairly large galaxy (as galaxies go) at over 100,000 light years across.

From a very dark site, the structure shown in this photo is very apparent to the naked eye; unfortunately, there are few dark sites left. We rolled the dice, spending one night at Hidden Canyon Ranch, near Great Basin National Park (which advertised itself as having some of the darkest skies in the country; they are Bortle 1 on the dark sky maps). Alas, it was very cloudy when we went to bed at about 10pm, but we set our alarm fro 3am (by which time the Milky Way should have made its way high enough to be visible in April). This was taken from the parking lot outside our room. There was no obvious ambient light, and the sky appeared clear, but we could only barely see the Milky Way with our naked eyes (not much better than from our suburban house at new moon). I assume that there was a lot of moisture in the air, resulting in poor transparency. But we were up, so I fired away. I was heartened to see what four-minute exposures could do!

The mix of dark brown, light brown and very light areas within the Milky Way reflects the fact that earth is within the disc of the galaxy, so we are, essentailly, looking at the galaxy edge on. Click here to see a view from earth of a fairly similar galaxy to ours, showing the dust lanes as part of the galaxy disc.

And, yes, I neglected to level my camera before taking the photos. My only excuse is that it was dark and 3:30 am. :)

Technical Information:

This is a composite of two images: (i) a single, 4-minute image, at f/2.2 and ISO 400, tracking, for the sky portion of the photo; and (ii) a single, shorter, exposure of the same scene, not tracking (to avoid blurring the foreground terrestrial stuff). We did some rudimentary "rock painting" of the hillside, with our little flashlight, to try to bring out some local color.

Equipment: Canon 5DSR camera wearing a Sigma 14mm f/1.8 lens, sitting on an iOptron Skyguider Pro tracking mount atop a simple tripod

Location: Hidden Canyon, Nevada, USA

Date: Data acquired 11:55 UTC, April 24, 2023; image posted August 22, 2023

Copyright Mark de Regt, 2023