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.
It looks more like a scene from a sci-fi movie than an actual scene on Earth. Photographer James Garlick captured this mind blowing photo when he arrived at a beach in Tasmania, Australia on May 18th, 2015. What he saw took his breath away. He stood in awe at the enchanted glowing waves gliding under the billions of stars in the Milky Way. The bright blue waves were indeed a rare and exciting sight and highly sought after by any one who goes there.
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
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.
Resembling a jewel studded grand staircase, the Whirlpool galaxy (M51) is one of the most sought after treasures of astronomers. Swirling with stellar gems and laced with cosmic stardust it proudly displays it's well defined spiral arms. One of the arms is punctuated with a galactic diamond, a smaller galaxy known as NGC 5195.
Today in our world of fast paced technology and growing population it's no wonder people forget to slow down and look up at the night sky. Even when we do look up we may just see a handful of stars and the moon. "Nothing to see here" we may think to ourselves as we get out of our cars at night and go about our business. Many people don't know what they are missing. How can you miss something you've never seen or thought twice about?
Light pollution harms more than just photos. It creates unseen problems on all life on Earth, including humans. Astrophotographer Mike Taylor has been battling the blaring light for years while taking photos of the night sky. Along with Stellar Eyes and many other photographers and sky gazers he joined the International Dark-Sky Association to advocate for dark skies. Here is his message on the importance of a dark sky.
This is Part II of Astrophotography 101. Click HERE for Part I on Cameras, Lenses, and Tripods.
So now you have your camera gear and you are ready to go out and shoot the night, right? Yes of course get out there but here are some helpful tools to make your job easier.