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Old 08-07-2016, 11:52am   #1
TripleBlack
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Default Milky Way Panorama

I've been fascinated with Milky Way photos for a year or so now, especially panoramas where the Milky Way looks like a rainbow. I tried to stitch several shots taken last fall together but had no luck at all - the arch of the Milky Way was nearly directly overhead.

I was more prepared this year after finding some resources that would show the Milky Way's exact position on any date/time. Due to the earth's rotation, the Milky Way appears to rise just as the sun and moon do and as it's just rising it appears as a "rainbow" or arch reaching 180 degrees from horizon to horizon. Each night through the summer, the "arch" rises a little earlier and by September, as it gets dark enough to see, it's too high in the sky to easily capture as a panorama.

Since March or so, each month around the new moon I've visited an old 19th century fort a couple hours west of Ft. Worth that's known for its dark skies as it's 40-50 miles from the nearest large city. Several trips were a little disappointing as haze or clouds affected the clarity but conditions were great last Tuesday. The shot below is a panorama covering a little over 180 degrees. It's 5 shots in portrait mode stitched together. Exposures were at 14mm for 25 seconds, f2.8, ISO 3200. I used a small LED panel to add some light to the foreground.

Did it look exactly like this? Not quite, but close. I made adjustments in software to contrast, brightness, saturation, etc. and used noise reduction to reduce the noise inherent in long exposures on digital cameras. This mainly brought out the detail in the core of the Milky Way, the section furthest to the right. The yellow and orange light along the horizon comes from a couple small towns a few miles away. There is also a faint green tint visible a few degrees above the horizon that I believe is "air glow", a phenomenon similar to auroras but caused by ultraviolet rays.

PM me if you want to try some Milky Way shots and I'll send you some good web sites to get you started.

If you don't give a rip about photography, I'd still encourage you to find someplace really dark to experience the sky. Most of us live in areas so polluted with light that we never see the Milky Way. Here in the DFW area you can almost count the stars you can see on both hands.

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Old 08-07-2016, 12:04pm   #2
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I'd have to head out to West TX to see that many stars!

Beautiful!
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Old 08-07-2016, 12:16pm   #3
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I'd have to head out to West TX to see that many stars!

Beautiful!
Thanks. Surprisingly you don't have to go too far. The skies get pretty dark just west of Palo Pinto. Dodson Prairie Church is a decent location for shooting the Milky Way and it's only 5 or so miles west of Palo Pinto and a couple miles south. Ft. Griffin is quite a bit further west and probably darker though I haven't been to the church at night yet.
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Old 08-07-2016, 06:32pm   #4
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Outstanding.
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Old 08-07-2016, 07:27pm   #5
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Outstanding.
Thanks! I have a slightly punched up version of it on Flickir. I toned it down for this crowd.
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Old 08-10-2016, 12:44pm   #6
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That is absolutely gorgeous. Love the old fort in the foreground. The only places in NC to get that dark of a sky is out in the country side away from the major cities. But better in the mountains, and really great out on the Outer Banks. I may even try the banks soon.
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Old 08-11-2016, 03:27pm   #7
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That is absolutely gorgeous. Love the old fort in the foreground. The only places in NC to get that dark of a sky is out in the country side away from the major cities. But better in the mountains, and really great out on the Outer Banks. I may even try the banks soon.
Well this location is a good 2.5 hours out into the sticks west of Ft. Worth. No dark skies close. Little to no cell reception. This place is a post Civil War fort with portions of several of the building in ruins. A few have been restored. It makes for a very cool backdrop for photos. BTW, the time lapse I posted a while back was shot at the ruins of the supply store for the fort. The one in this shot is know as the "Admin" building.

It's cool that the folks that run the place are very friendly to astronomers and night photographers. We call, leave the admission in an envelope (a whopping $4.00) and they give us the combination to the gate. It's worth the drive just to see the stars.
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Old 11-14-2016, 09:25pm   #8
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