Justin Ng wrote to EarthSky, with this photo attached. He captured it on May 6, 2015 at 5:30 a.m. local time in East Java, Indonesia. He wrote:
Just led my first full moon astrophotography expedition to Mount Bromo, one of the active volcanoes in Indonesia. It would have been easier to unveil the Milky Way against the bright moon on our first night there, but the sky was cloudy and we could only do this on our last night, which was more challenging as the bright moon was located nearer to the Milky Way’s galactic center.
The moon and Saturn made a close approach on May 6, passing just within 2° of each other, at around 35° above horizon at 5.30am (GMT +7). It was a cold night, and also when the Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaked. The large and bright waning gibbous moon, with its illumination at 97%, managed to obscure both the Eta Aquarid meteor shower and the spectacular Milky Way. Although I was able to see a few faint Eta Aquarid meteors on that night, I was unable to see the Milky Way with my unaided eye because the bright moon was so close!
Nonetheless, using the method that I have shared in this tutorial, I managed to unveil the Milky Way that’s obscured by the moon.
So it’s still possible to unveil the Milky Way against a large and bright moon! Give it a try.
Justin pointed out that the circular feature in the photo – on the lower left side – was not a real object in the sky over Mount Bromo. It’s an internal reflection from his camera, known as a lens flare, often seen (although usually not so beautifully!) in photos of bright objects like the sun and moon.
Thank you, Justin!
Bottom line: Milky Way in bright moonlight, by Justin Ng of Singapore.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.