Skyscape: South Pacific

September 24, 2011 • 7:32 am

From Astronomy Picture of the Day comes this beautiful and prizewinning shot taken on one of the Cook Islands (be sure to click to enlarge) by Tunç Tezel (TWAN), with the following description:

From Sagittarius to Carina, the Milky Way Galaxy shines in this dark night sky above planet Earth’s lush island paradise of Mangaia. Familiar to denizens of the southern hemisphere, the gorgeous skyscape includes the bulging galactic center at the upper left and bright stars Alpha and Beta Centauri just right of center. About 10 kilometers wide, volcanic Mangaia is the southern most of the Cook Islands. Geologist estimate that at 18 million years old it is the oldest island in the Pacific Ocean. Of course, the Milky Way is somewhat older, with the galaxy’s oldest stars estimated to be over 13 billion years old. (Editors note: This image holds the distinction of being selected as winner in the Royal Greenwich Observatory’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition in the Earth and Space category.)

h/t: Diane G

17 thoughts on “Skyscape: South Pacific

  1. Beautiful. I prefer the Grand Canyon picture posted yesterday. It replaced my 3-month outer space background with some wonders closer to home.

    This is a mix of both, but too small to fit my screen. Beautiful picture, though. Deserved to win.

  2. On Tunç Tezel’s flickr he also supplies this extra information:

    When I traveled to see the total solar eclipse of 11th July 2010, I stayed in Oneroa village on the west coast of Mangaia, Cook Islands. On my first clear night in South Pacific, 7th July 2010, I was out to find clear areas to see the most of the southern skies. Oneroa and Mangaia in general has a lush green vegetation. There are not many clear areas where you can see most of the sky. This is how the sky looked from a relatively open area just outside Oneroa village.

    Until a week before that night, I had never seen half of the sky in this 3×3 panorama. The brighter stars along the southern Milky Way can easily be picked out. I did not use a diffusion filter (which I normally do); the effects are all natural thanks to hot and humid tropical weather. I used a Hutech modified Canon EOS 5D at ISO 1600 and a 24 mm f/1.4 lens at f/2 to shoot nine 30-second exposures that made this panorama. I constructed the composite with PtGui Pro and made the finishing touches with Adobe Photoshop

    So the image is stitched together from nine long exposure snaps in a 3×3 grid. It must be a challenge because the sky will noticeably turn (against the tree foreground) in the 10mins (?) required ~ around 3 degrees I think

    1. If he used a Gigapan, shooting the panorama isn’t that difficult at all, possibly even having it take the shifting sky into account.
      (And 9 exposures of 30 seconds would have taken roughly 4.5 minutes 😉 )

    1. And because we don’t see in 30-second time exposures. I am lucky to live in the Southern Hemisphere and reasonably far from any city, and though the view is good, not as good as that. I enjoyed supernova 1987a – in the middle of the Large Magellanic Cloud – but I had had to drive far from the local streetlights to see Comet Halley the year before.

      (An Agave americana in my garden made its growth spurt in time with Halley’s passage, growing 10cm/day as marked on my window and lined up against the horizon. Spooky.)

  3. Light pollution has got so much worse – city folk have no idea of what is out there. It reminds me of that Asimov story about the people who cannot see the stars from their planet…

    1. Agreed. I live in Ireland and I almost never see any stars at all thanks to light pollution and non-stop cloud cover.

      My family lives in Africa, and the night skies there are exceptional and wonderful. Whenever I visit I spend many hours gaping in awe.

  4. Yea, I live in a small country town in Taiwan, and my son has just gone off to college in a big city- his astonished reaction after his first night-time bull session sitting on the roof was “you can’t see any stars!”- and more surprised that none of his city-boy classmates thought that it was unusual (solution- more beers).

  5. My sober academic comment seems to have been ‘stuck’ in moderation for some days now.
    Possibly because I included 2 urls pointing to the same image of this galactic phenomenon.
    Can you please see your way to allowing it through the “Gates o’ Spam”, Prof. Coyne?

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