The Milky Way and the Stinger of Scorpius

One of the most profound things any human being can see is our own Milky Way Galaxy. For the best view you need to be hundreds of miles from any large city, and preferably tens of miles from any small town. Such places are increasingly hard to find, especially in advanced nations like the USA where "progress" includes lighting up the sky and blotting out our view of the grand reality beyond.

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is one such sanctuary of the night sky. During my recent assignment as a Night Sky Volunteer in that park I took advantage of those pristine skies to do some wide-field astrophotography.

Low on the Utah horizon lies the stinger of the fabled constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. The two bright stars near the right edge, Shaula and Lesuth, form the actual stinger. This pair is sometimes also called the Cat's Eyes. The curved tail of the Scorpion is partly out of the frame and partly hidden by the foreground rock. The rest of the view consists of thick star clouds of the Milky Way. The prominent star clusters M6 and M7 are visible in the upper half of the image.

I shot this with my 85mm f/2 lens stopped down to f/4. The individual exposures were 2 minutes at ISO 1600.

Image copyright by Joe Bergeron.