Destinations Along the Winter Milky Way

Photograph of Winter Milky Way over Sunset Crater, including sketches of deep sky objects in the area.

Photograph of Winter Milky Way over Sunset Crater
with sketches of deep sky objects in the area.

Move mouse over sketch above to see where each deep sky object resides.
Click image for larger version. Click here for larger version without call-out lines.

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Other Print Versions: Vertical Stacked Version || Photograph Only

This past winter, I photographed Orion and the Milky Way suspended over a snow-covered Sunset Crater (see image and stacking details at the bottom of this post). This is my first attempt at not just pointing out deep sky objects in the photograph, but including sketches of them. There is much more to see in this rich, luminous stretch of our galaxy, but these are some of the highlights.

Included Sketches (24):

Additional Details

Sunset Crater National Monument lies just a few miles northeast of Flagstaff, AZ, (the world’s first International Dark Sky City). The city’s historic ties to astronomy, commitment to preserving dark skies, and high altitude (6900 ft) mean that just a short drive outside town leads to extraordinary views of the night sky. Flagstaff’s modest light dome can be seen in the lower left of the image. When the Milky Way is not overhead, SQM zenith readings of 21.7 are typical at this site just 11 miles from the more heavily populated and commercial areas of town.

The image was shot Feb 13, 2010 at 1AM MST. It is a composite of 11 30-second images photographed with a tripod-mounted Canon EOS 300D at 21 mm, ISO 800, f/4.5. I stacked the 11 shots to improve the signal to noise ratio. To keep star trails from forming in the stacking process, I started with the first photo in the series, and then de-rotated the sky on 10 of the subsequent images. This keeps the image true to the first exposure while benefiting from stacking of the subsequent exposures without star trails. You may notice a dark rim along the left (south) edge of the volcano–this is not a masking artifact, the snow field actually presented an abrupt stop on that southern face, which is evident on each of the single exposures.

The sketches represent views through 6-inch and 8-inch Newtonian reflectors from various locations in and around Flagstaff. Notoriously difficult visual objects, such as the Horsehead Nebula are within the grasp of modest-sized telescopes from the dark skies around Flagstaff. The sketches were created with graphite or charcoal on white paper, then scanned, inverted and colorized in photoshop to represent the view through the eyepiece. (Additional digital editing was performed on the double star sketches to add diffraction rings and glare.)

4 Replies to “Destinations Along the Winter Milky Way”

  1. Really nice montage! I will be waiting (impatiently) for the other three seasons… 😉

  2. Jeremy,
    Not sure how I missed this, but this is just incredible! Nicely done. Someday I need to clean up my blog or move to a website . . . not that it does much good so far this winter. I haven’t been out since December 4th. Again, I just love this montage and the items.

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