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Best Milky Way pics of 2021

Man standing under rocky arch, pointing at a star or planet, with Milky Way cutting through sky behind.
In this first of the best Milky Way photos, Spencer Welling calls this award-winning Milky Way image Chamber of Light. He captured it in the U.S. state of Utah. Spencer wrote, “The deserts of the Southwest abound with places to capture the night sky. It’s easy to overlook some of the more obscure hidden gems hovering under the radar. This location is situated below a remote set of cliffs in Grand Staircase-Escalante. This natural stone chamber provides some of the clearest, most pristine views of the Milky Way framed by the copper-colored opening of the cavern.”

In May 2021, we heard from Dan Zafra about a new collection of the 25 best Milky Way photos for 2021. Dan is editor of the travel photography blog Capture the Atlas, which focuses on landscape and night astrophotography. The 25 winning photographers have 14 different nationalities and took their award-winning photos in 12 countries around the world, in dark-sky locations away from urban light pollution. These stellar scenes of our home galaxy are a feast for the eyes and soul.

May and June compose the late-night Milky Way season. The best months for Northern Hemisphere observers to see the Milky Way is February to October, while Southern Hemisphere observers get the best view from January to November. May and June provide the maximum hours of visibility of the Milky Way on both hemispheres. Get inspired by these photos and go out in search of the Milky Way by using our reader-submitted tips and dark-sky locator: Best Places to Stargaze.

Enjoy 10 of the best Milky Way photos, courtesy of the photographers and “Capture the Atlas.”

Temple of the Sun by Bryony Richards

Towering, pointed red rock formation with Milky Way behind it in best Milky Way photos.
Bryony Richards took this image of the Milky Way in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Bryony said: “The Milky Way core rises before dawn under the southern skies of Capitol Reef National Park’s Temple of the Sun. This area of the Colorado Plateau Desert, known for its domes, hoodoos, fins, reefs, natural bridges and slot canyons, includes the Temples of the Sun and Moon. These Jurassic-aged sandstone monoliths, which formed as sandy mud on a tidal flat, tower above the otherwise flat desert floor. It seems like more than a coincidence that the Temples line up perfectly with the Milky Way, their vibrant orange colors seemingly reflecting the color of the stars above.”

Dragon’s Lair by Daniel Thomas Gum

Milky Way arching over canyonland landscape with spires and river.
Daniel Thomas Gum captured this Milky Way arching over Mungo, New South Wales, Australia. Daniel said, “This is my favorite nightscape image to date. Mungo is a 12-hour drive away from my home in Sydney, but those Bortle 1 skies are the best I’ve ever witnessed and photographed at night. The moment I came upon this scene, I knew exactly what I wanted to the name the image. It was otherworldly – think ‘Game of Thrones’ – and it lined up perfectly for how I wanted to capture it. Large, jagged walls framed a winding path leading to a centered spire to the west.”

Around Dead Trees by Gary Bhaztara

Claw-like dead trees in foreground of colorful sky with Milky Way beyond low mountains.
Gary Bhaztara took this Milky Way photo in Java, Indonesia. Gary said, “I took this shot of the Milky Way facing south after the sun set in the west. At the same time, the blue fire was burning just below the mountain while the Milky Way kept rising. Taking the picture at this spot was a bit difficult because of health reasons and the national parks schedule. It’s prohibited to stay there after midnight, so I didn’t have much time to take more images. This trip was a struggle because of the many challenges but I love every single corner of the Ijen Crater; it’s like a piece of heaven on earth.”

Volcano and Cross by Tomas Slovinsky

Snowcapped low conical volcano with orange lava glow and scattered stars and Milky Way above.
Tomas Slovinsky calls this image Volcano and Cross. He captured it at the Villarrica Volcano in Chile and wrote, “If you’ve never seen the southern sky, it’s significantly different and truly amazing. In the Northern Hemisphere, we use Polaris as the polar star, but below the equator, the best indicator is the Southern Cross constellation, located in the image just above the Villarrica volcano.”

Mt. Taranaki Milky Way by Larryn Rae

Small human figure in snowy scene with distant conical mountain and arching Milky Way.
Larryn Rae took this image of the Milky Way at Fanthams Peak, Mt. Taranaki, in New Zealand. Larryn said, “This is one of the most challenging shots I have ever captured, as it required climbing for 4 hours in 43 mph (70 kph) winds to reach the ice summit of Fanthams Peak, a volcano on the side of Mt Taranaki. At an elevation of 2000 meters [1.2 miles] and -15 degrees C [5 degrees F] outside with gusty wind blasts, I had to choose settings that would get me the capture rather than what I may have considered more ideal settings. I am so stoked to have captured what I did under perfectly clear skies, as it was a true test of both mountaineering and endurance carrying all my gear to this location, but one I will look back on with pride and success.”

GranTeCan by Antonio Solano

Telescope dome on hill with detailed Milky Way behind.
Antonio Solano captured this shot of the Milky Way in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. Antonio said, “On the last night of my trip to La Palma, I went up to the Roque de los Muchachos, where I enjoyed a nice dinner with my girlfriend while watching the spectacular sunset over the sea of clouds that is typical of this location. Moments later, the first stars were already visible and I set up my camera gear. The night was fantastic; there was no wind and no calima (haze) on the horizon. After several tests, I opted for a 50mm focal length that allowed me to capture a closer perspective of the telescope while framing our galactic bulge.”

Riaño by Pablo Ruiz

Arch of Milky Way over lake surrounded by snow; pointy mountains in distance.
Pablo Ruiz took this Milky Way image in Riaño, Spain. Pablo said, “I captured this image last winter in the Riaño Mountain Reservoir in Spain. The biggest difficulty that night was mainly the cold; it was over -10 degrees. The moisture in the reservoir was freezing the lens and it was difficult to shoot for a long period of time. The composition of the winter Milky Way over the mountains and the reservoir created magical scenery.”

Devil’s throat by Victor Lima

Wide waterfalls in foreground with arching Milky Way behind and other light effects in the sky.
Victor Lima took this Milky Way photo at Iguaza Falls in Brazil. Victor said, “Photographing Iguazu Falls at night has always been one of my priority projects. In order to do so, I needed to obtain a special authorization from the environmental agency that is responsible for national parks in Brazil. Finally, in early 2021, I got authorization. I spent 4 days inside the Iguazu National Park with exclusive access to the falls at night for my students and me. The first challenge was to walk around the park at night knowing that several jaguars live there, which are frequently seen by employees and tourists. In the area closest to the main waterfalls, the big challenge was to make long-exposure images with the strong water spray from the more than 1.5 million liters per second from the waterfalls. Working with exposure times longer than 10 or 15 seconds became an almost impossible task and the lens was never dry. In this image, we have one of the main waterfalls of the Iguazu Falls complex, the Santa Maria Jump. Right over the fall, we can see Saturn and the zodiacal light illuminating the horizon.”

Nyctophilia by José Luis Cantabrana

Rocky coastline with Milky Way overhead.
José Luis Cantabrana captured this Milky Way image on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. José said, “This incredible location has always amazed me, even before I had any interest in photography. This set of rocks, carved by the incessant churning of the sea and the powerful wind that whips the south coast of Victoria is, without a doubt, the most emblematic landscape of Australia. After an amazing sunset followed by an ethereal moonset, I was standing there, contemplating the spot I had always dreamt of under a magical starry sky. However, not everything was pink that night … I had brought a new piece of equipment with me, a star tracker, and as soon I started to set it up, I knew it was going to be a tricky night. After numerous failed attempts to align it towards the south celestial pole, I was ready to give up, but I decided to take a shot and see what happens while the galactic core was rising up. Surprisingly, it worked out nicely, and a door opened for me to a new magical world full of stars.”

Bottom line: The blog “Capture the Atlas” has announced its 2021 Milky Way Photographer of the Year contest. This annual edition showcases 25 of the best Milky Way photos taken from all over the world.

Via Capture the Atlas

August 27, 2021
Astronomy Essentials

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