Today's Image

A sky filled with stars, from Hawaii’s Mauna Kea

A panorama of the night sky with innumerable stars above a layer of clouds.
View larger. | Here’s the stunning view, overflowing with stars, from the Gemini North Observatory that sits atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. NSF’s NOIRLab, which runs the observatory, released this image on March 6, 2024. In this image, you can see the Milky Way, zodiacal light and gegenschein. Learn more about them below. Image via International Gemini Observatory/ NOIRLab/ NSF/ AURA/ J. Chu.

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A sky filled with stars

The National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab says that – with our unaided eyes – we can see about 6,000 stars out of around 200 billion that reside in our Milky Way galaxy. And on March 6, 2024, NOIRLab released a new image from atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii that absolutely teems with stars.

The star clouds of the Milky Way on the horizon meet with clouds in Earth’s atmosphere that block the light pollution from neighboring cities below. The observatory is above the cloud deck, providing astronomers a darker and clearer night.

On the right side of the image, the white glow arcing upward is the zodiacal light. It was long thought to be interplanetary dust leftover from the formation of the solar system. But new research says it may instead be sunlight glinting off dust released from Mars’ many dust storms. March is a great time to see the zodiacal light! Learn how to see it here.

On the left side of the image is another bright spot on the sky, though not as bright as the zodiacal light. This spot of brightness is the gegenschein. Gegenschein is a counterglow you can only see in very dark skies. It lies opposite the sun in the sky. It really is caused by sunlight reflecting off interplanetary dust.

Bottom line: See a new image of the skies above Hawaii from the Gemini North Observatory atop Mauna Kea. How many stars can you see?

Read more: How many stars can you see on a moonless night?

Read more: Olbers’ paradox asks ‘Why is the night sky dark?’

March 8, 2024
Today's Image

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