14 November 2023

The Milky Way over Monument Valley

A recent Astronomy Photo of the Day from NASA.  Click image to view in larger format.

Reposted from 2012 (!) to add this photo of the Andromeda galaxy above the Swiss Alps:

I realize now that the original title is a bit inaccurate, in that the Milky Way comprises way way more than just that luminous streak seen in the top photo (which is I think just the central disk(?) of the Milky Way galaxy.  In fact every single star we can see from earth with the human eye is part of the Milky Way.  And the Andromeda galaxy in the second photo is the only celestial object outside the Milky Way that we can see from earth.  The Hubble and JWST show how infinitely much more there is out there.


  1. In these moments, when I realize that I have not seen the Milky Way in over a decade, I become very upset with 'progress'... I feel as though some connection to reality has been taken away from me.

    1. Relevant:

      "So foreign are the real night skies to Los Angeles that in 1994, after the Northridge earthquake jostled Angelenos awake at 4:31 a.m., the observatory received many calls asking about "the strange sky they had seen after the earthquake."

      "We finally realized what we were dealing with," Krupp said. "The quake had knocked out most of the power, and people ran outside and they saw the stars. The stars were in fact so unfamiliar; they called us wondering what happened."

    2. I like to gaze at the Milky Way (at the rare times it shows itself here) realizing we are orbiting around it. It gives one a real 3D feel for the titanic cosmic ride we are on. The teapot of Sagittarius points to the direction toward Sagittarius A, the monster gravity source at the center that holds the whole structure together. Our orbital direction is apparently toward the star Vega, in the constellation Lyra.
      Imagine: when the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 mya, the earth had only orbited around 65/240, or not even one third of an orbit.
      The last full orbit ago, the continents were mashed together into Pangea, and the dinosaurs had not yet emerged!
      We've (or whatever we were at the time) have only orbited 18-20 times in total since solar emergence from the big bang flotsam.

      Good TED talk about the center of the galaxy: http://www.ted.com/talks/andrea_ghez_the_hunt_for_a_supermassive_black_hole.html

      Vacation idea:

      There are places out in the desert one can rent a room and a telescopes, and the skies are CLEAR! These are just two, and I don't know if they are good or bad, but they look terrific.

  2. Here's an article on hpw to create this kind of photography: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/techniques/landscape_astrophotography.shtml

  3. Growing up in northern Utah, I always had a decent view of the night sky, but it wasn't until I was about 9 and I went to Lake Powell that I had any concept of how many stars one really could see. It was bright enough to light my way, and utterly awe inspiring.

  4. I just recently learned the fact you state that the only thing not in the milky way in the night sky that the naked eye can see is Andromeda. I have also heard that there are 2 or 3 visible galaxies if you live in the southern hemisphere.

    I live in a remote part of California and we have very dark skies. No streetlights and the neighbors are some distance away. About 2/3 of my neighbors are city folk with a second home and are gone all winter. Weirdly (to me) a few of them have outside lights, including flood lights, on all sides set on timers so they will be on all night. I guess the poor souls are scared of the dark.

  5. The Andromeda Galaxy is the only galaxy other than the Milky Way that can be seen NAKED EYE in the Northern hemisphere. With even a small telescope, you can see other galaxies. See Messier objects.

  6. Absolutely gorgeous.


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