A panoramic view of the Milky Way’s core, captured from the Atacama Desert in Chile. Emission nebulas are shown in pink, and the blue spots are reflection nebulas. (Image credit: Miguel Claro)
Miguel Claro is a professional photographer, author and science communicator based in Lisbon, Portugal, who creates spectacular images of the night sky. As a European Southern Observatory Photo Ambassador and member of The World At Night and the official astrophotographer of the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve, he specializes in astronomical “Skyscapes” that connect both Earth and night sky. Join Miguel here as he takes us through his photograph, “The Starry Dusty Field from the Core of Our Milky Way Galaxy.”
While astrophotographers typically use long exposures to capture detailed views of stars, galaxies and nebulas, this panorama of the Milky Way galaxy shows how a little exposure can go a long way.
The panorama, which was featured as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, is composed of only nine 60-second shots that I captured with a 105mm lens at f/1.8 during my recent trip to Atacama Desert in Chile. It reveals a wide, deep-sky field from the core region of our galaxy.
An annotated version of the same image shows where to find nebulas, star clusters and other Milky Way features. (Image credit: Miguel Claro)
Against the star-filled background, we can easily recognize many well known deep-sky objects, including several emission nebulas — glowing clouds of interstellar dust and gas — like the Eagle Nebula (also known as Messier 16, or M16), the Omega Nebula (M17), the Lagoon Nebula (M8) and NGC 6357.
The colorful panorama also features some reflection nebulas, or nebulas that emit no light of their own and glow by reflecting light from local stars, and dark nebulas that block light from passing through. All three types of nebulas — emission, reflection and dark nebulas — can be seen together here in the Trifid Nebula (M20).
The image also shows many star clusters, like Messier 23. The blue star pair glowing brightly on the right side of the image is Shaula and Lesath, while are located on the tail of the constellation Scorpius, the scorpion. Above it are two red emission nebulas, NGC 6357 and the Cat’s Paw (NGC 6334). In the top right corner, we can see another “pink” object known as the Prawn Nebula, or IC 4628.
The Milky Way’s galactic core and all of the objects shown in this image are visible in the night sky this time of year; skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere can see it after midnight and before dawn, while those in the Southern Hemisphere can see it all night long.