Keep Chasing a Dream

The ethereal glow of green southern lights, the Aurora Australis, envelops the arc of the Milky Way over the New Zealand Alps in an enchanting light. Thin cirrus clouds contrast darkly against the glowing night sky while the snow-covered peaks of the Southern Alps with Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman are illuminated by the first light of the rising crescent moon.
Faint and widespread green southern lights originate from electrically charged particles, flung out by the sun, colliding with oxygen atoms in the upper earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of about 100 km (62 mi). The oxygen atoms absorb and immediately emit the particle energy. The emission of the energy releases photons with the wavelength of green light causing the ethereal glow.
The arc of the Milky Way spans across southern celestial hemisphere and the entire main ridge of the north-south aligned Southern Alps and goes up to the zenith. The brightly sparkling band of millions of stars in the Milky Way arc is interspersed with interstellar dust clouds that contrast darkly with the bright starry sky. The interstellar dust clouds block the light of the stars behind and therefore appear visually as star-free gaps in the night sky. At the northern (left) horizon the Sagittarius constellation with the galactic center and the Scorpio constellation with its bright yellow main star Antares are most prominent. In the zenith the famous Southern Cross is sparkling and strongly contrasts with its neighboring interstellar dust cloud, called the coal sack. At the southern (right) horizon, the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog, dominates with Sirius, the Dog Star, being the brightest star of the Milky Way. Below the arc of the Milky Way and well above the highest peaks of the Southern Alps are the two neighboring galaxies of the Magellanic Clouds, and the extremely bright star Canopus in the constellation Carina, the keel of the ship.
Capturing this nighttime panorama of the Southern Alps with the Aurora Australis and the Milky Way Arc was a long-cherished dream coming true. At the same time, it marked my departure into a new era of ultra-high-resolution astronomy panoramic photography with no significant image noise. The star tracking system allows to photograph point-shaped stars with minute-long exposure times, which would otherwise become star trails after 25 seconds due to the earth’s rotation. In order to capture this three-dimensional panorama, the scenery comprises 200° in the horizontal and 110° in the vertical. This required 20 individual 14 mm exposures, ten of which were star field images with star tracking of six minutes exposure each and ten equally long exposures of the Alpine landscape shortly after moonrise. Thus, the shooting of this 106 megapixel photo including the calibration and alignment of the astronomical tracking system took seven hours.

April 2013
Canon 5D MkII, Rokinon 14 mm, f/2.8, composite of 10 static and 10 star-tracked dynamic images with 6 minutes each, ISO 1600, tripod, AstroTrac TT320 digital star tracking
New Zealand Gallery » Keep Chasing a Dream