The graceful arc of the Milky Way and beautiful landscapes

Млечный Путь и свечение неба над Кратерным озером (США)

Milky Way Over Crater Lake with Airglow

In the foreground, is Crater Lake – a caldera created by volcanism on planet Earth about 7,700 years ago. Next, inside the lake, is water. Although the origin of the water in the crater is melted snowfall, the origin of water on Earth more generally is unclear, but possibly related to ancient Earthly-impacts of icy bodies. Next, the green glow in the sky is airglow, light emitted by atoms high in the Earth’s atmosphere as they recombine at night after being separated during the day by energetic sunlight. The many points of light in the sky are stars, glowing by nuclear fusion. They are far above the atmosphere but nearby to our Sun in the Milky Way Galaxy. Contrary to appearances, the Milky Way band glows by itself and is not illuminated by the airglow. The above image is a six-frame panorama taken during about two weeks ago in Oregon, USA.

Млечный Путь над лесом колчанных деревьев (Намибия)

Milky Way Over Quiver Tree Forest

 In front of a famous background of stars and galaxies lies some of Earth’s more unusual trees. Known as quiver trees, they are actually succulent aloe plants that can grow to tree-like proportions. The quiver tree name is derived from the historical usefulness of their hollowed branches as dart holders. Occurring primarily in southern Africa, the trees pictured in the above 16-exposure composite are in Quiver Tree Forest located in southern Namibia.

Млечный Путь над Швейцарией

Milky Way Over Switzerland

What’s visible in the night sky during this time of year? To help illustrate the answer, a beautiful land, cloud, and skyscape was captured earlier this month over Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Visible in the foreground were the snow covered cliffs of the amphitheater shaped Creux du Van, as well as distant trees, and town-lit clouds. Visible in the night sky (at midnight) were galaxies including the long arch of the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy (M31), and the Triangulum galaxy (M33). Star clusters visible included NGC 752, M34, M35, M41, the double cluster, and the Beehive (M44). Nebulas visible included the Orion Nebula (M42), NGC 7822, IC 1396, the Rosette Nebula, the Flaming Star Nebula, the California Nebula, the Heart and Soul Nebulas, and the Pacman Nebula.

Млечный Путь над Долиной Монументов (США)

 The Milky Way Over Monument Valley

You don’t have to be at Monument Valley to see the Milky Way arch across the sky like this — but it helps. Only at Monument Valley USA would you see a picturesque foreground that includes these iconic rock peaks called buttes. Buttes are composed of hard rock left behind after water has eroded away the surrounding soft rock. In the above image taken about two months ago, the closest butte on the left and the butte to its right are known as the Mittens, while Merrick Butte can be seen just further to the right. High overhead stretches a band of diffuse light that is the central disk of our spiral Milky Way Galaxy. The band of the Milky Way can be spotted by almost anyone on almost any clear night when far enough from a city and surrounding bright lights.

Млечный Путь над испанской пустыней Барденас-Реалес

Milky Way Over Spain’s Bardenas Reales

  What’s that below the Milky Way? First, across the top of the above image, lies the faint band that is our planet’s sideways view of the central disk of our home Milky Way Galaxy. What lies beneath is, by comparison, is a much less common sight. It is the striking peak of Castildetierra, a rock formation located in Bardenas Reales, a natural badlands in northeast Spain. Standing 50 meters tall, the rock spire includes clay and sandstone left over from thousands of years of erosion by wind and water.

Млечный Путь над Питон-де-Ль'О (о-в Реюньон)

Milky Way Over Piton de l’Eau

Sometimes, if you wait long enough for a clear and moonless night, the stars will come out with a vengeance. One such occasion occurred earlier this month at the Piton de l’Eau on Reunion Island. In the foreground, surrounded by bushes and trees, lies a water filled volcanic crater serenely reflecting starlight. A careful inspection near the image center will locate Piton des Neiges, the highest peak on the island, situated several kilometers away. In the background, high above the lake, shines the light of hundreds of stars, most of which are within 100 light years, right in our stellar neighborhood. Far in the distance, arching majestically overhead, is the central band of our home Milky Way Galaxy, shining by the light of millions of stars each located typically thousands of light years away.

Млечный Путь над Бангл-Бангл (Австралия)

Milky Way Over the Bungle Bungles

Which part of this picture do you find more interesting — the land or the sky? Advocates for the land might cite the beauty of the ancient domes of the Bungle Bungle Range in Western Australia. These picturesque domes appear as huge layered beehives and are made of sandstones and conglomerates deposited over 350 million years ago. Advocates for the sky might laud the beauty of the Milky Way’s central band shown arching from horizon to horizon. The photogenic Milky Way band formed over 10 billion years ago and now includes many well-known nebulae and bright stars. Fortunately, you don’t have to decide and can enjoy both together in this beautiful 8-frame panorama taken from the dark skies of Purnululu National Park about two months ago.

Млечный Путь над Национальным Парком Акадия (США)

The Milky Way galaxy from Hunter’s Head at Acadia National Park

Christopher Georgia took this photo of the Milky Way galaxy from Hunter’s Head at Acadia National Park, Maine. He used a Nikon D3s camera with a Nikon 14-24 mm at 18 mm lens, 20-second exposure, ISO 2500 and F/2.8. The photo is a nine shot panorama taken in portrait position.

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
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