The Southwest is rich in history and peppered with amazing sites left behind by the indigenous people of the ancient Americas. The heavens were carefully tracked and documented by the natives who once thrived in these sacred lands. Their knowledge was so precise they could predict the very moment of the start of new season. The imprint and legends they left behind were nothing short of remarkable.
When we contemplate our place in the universe, sometimes it helps to look out into the cosmos and try to wrap our minds around the unimaginable number of planets, stars and galaxies. Astronomers have estimated that there is way over 100 billion planets and stars in the Milky Way alone, and over 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, all with billions and billions of alien suns and planets. The possibilities are endless and can entertain our imagination for countless hours until our brains almost explode.
As we gaze into the night, we can see amazing wonders, but telescopes can turn them into eye candy for the soul. This image captured by Terry Hancock in his amateur backyard observatory in Fremont, Michigan, takes our eyes on an instant cosmic vacation. It almost appears 3-D as our imagination travels through the incredible jewel encrusted scenery.
As technology progresses we lose the magic of the night. It's a sad reality that many people never look at the stars anymore because they can't see them. They have forgotten there is a night sky at all. We can change this and bring back the awe-inspiring twinkling night that we used to have. We can fight light pollution!
As we sit on our hunk of rock somewhere in the outskirts of the Milky Way, we have no way to see ourselves from the outside. The Triangulum Galaxy helps us to imagine what we could look like. It is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy and about 30 other smaller galaxies. This galactic wonder is one of the most distant permanent objects that can be viewed with the naked eye.
Getting out at night and catching an eye full of the heavens can sometimes give us new awareness of the cosmos. Astrophotographer Brian Drourr took these stunning panoramas of the Milky Way. He says being under the stars has changed the way he sees the universe and our place in it.
"If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently. How so? Well, when you look into infinity, you realize that there are more important things than what people do all day." -Calvin and Hobbes
These aren't your average everyday selfies. Each photo is unique and creative because the photographer captured their own image against the ultimate backdrop, our Milky Way. When one spends so much time under the big open night sky, there is no escaping contemplating the deeper meaning of the universe. Whether we star gaze alone, with friends, or with the one we love, we can't help but feel small and humbled in the grandeur of the cosmos. We come to the understanding we are part of something so incredible and so much larger than ourselves. It was hard picking just one photo from each talented photographer. Please click the link under each name to see more captivating images of our night sky. Thank you to all the photographers who contributed images. The last image is an open invitation for anyone who would like to experience a front row seat to the most amazing show this planet has ever seen. We invite you to go out and enjoy the magic of the night as the Milky Way puts on an unforgettable cosmic show!
At first glance this image taken by Hubble immediately invokes mind-blowing awe and wonder. THIS is out there in our universe. Hubble tells us the story of the galaxy in which it focused it's gaze. This is galaxy NGC 4522. It is one of about 1,300 galaxies racing around each in the Virgo galaxy cluster. Speeding through space it is being stripped of it's gas content. Every one of the galaxies visible in this incredible image has it's own story. Each one is filled with hundreds of billions of other suns with perhaps trillions of planets. What are their stories?
This bright galaxy is one of the most famous examples of an edge-on spiral galaxy, oriented perpendicularly to our line of sight so that we see right into its luminous disc. NGC 4565 has been nicknamed the Needle Galaxy because, when seen in full, it appears as a very narrow streak of light on the sky. It is amazing to see such beautiful detail in a galaxy 50 million light years from Earth both from the ground and in astonishing close ups by Hubble.