The Great Arc of the Milky Way
The Milky Way sweeps in a great arch of light across the sky.
It’s been a wonderful week for shooting the Milky Way. I had a very clear night on Tuesday but ventured no further than a few hundred feet from home to the harvested canola field next door.
The Milky Way was beautifully placed, as it always is at this time of year, right across the sky from northeast to southwest, with the starclouds of Cygnus passing directly overhead.
The top photo is a panorama of 8 shots, with a camera on a tripod, and each exposure being just 60 seconds with a 14mm lens in portrait orientation. I stitched the segments with PTGui software, rendering the scene with its spherical projection mode which wraps the dome of the sky onto a flat surface in a way that retains the zenith detail as your eye saw it, but greatly distorts the extremities of the scene at either end.
My house is at lower right.
For this image, I used the same lens to take a single view from horizon to well past the zenith. Here the camera was tracking the stars for a set of stacked 5-minute exposures to grab even more detail in the Milky Way.
What stands out as much as the Milky Way are the green fingers of airglow stretching across the sky. These were invisible to the eye but the camera sure picks them up.
Airglow is caused by oxygen atoms, in this case, fluorescing at night as they release some of the energy they absorbed by day. It’s not aurora and generally covers more of the sky, sometimes with a diffuse glow or, as here, with more structured bands that slowly shift over minutes. It varies from night to night and can occur at any latitudes. But usually only cameras pick it up. To the eye, airglow just makes the sky look inexplicably a little less dark than you think it should be on such a clear night.
– Alan, September 7, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer