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Chasing The Milky Way

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

For the last five seasons, I've been chasing the Milky Way. When I started, I didn't know that it had seasons. I assumed it was always there and was visible all the time. The light pollution from the city covered it up. What I learned is that I was partly right. The Milky Way Galaxy is around us. However, the galactic core of our home galaxy is only visible at certain times of the year. The Milky Way season, in my part of the hemisphere, runs from mid-March to early November. Despite what you might think, I'm not an astronomer.

So my chase for the Milky Way in 2019 is just starting as I write this. The Galactic Core had begun to rise over the horizon enough that it was time to plan to go out. I started my day at around 1:30 AM. After doing the needful, I consulted the weather oracle. It deemed me worthy, so I got myself ready. I then drove for about an hour to reach the spot I picked out last week. I stayed out there until 7 AM. On the way home, I had to pull over in a parking lot for a nap. The nap ran for about 2 hours. I returned home around 10:30 AM. I then began the process of "editing" out the light pollution. Here are the results.

This morning was excellent, and it was a treat to the view of three planets - Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter. If you look along the horizon, that bright do is Venus. The next most brilliant dot is Jupiter, there near the top of the galactic core. You'll find Saturn near "the center" below Jupiter to the left. That other bright dot in the right corner, I believe, is the star Antares. Remember - Not an Astronomer.

Milky Way landscape photo in Manatee County FL
The yellow you see is the light polluton from the surrounding area.

I arrived at about 3:00 AM and starting setting up. I had scooped this area during the day, but setting up at night is still challenging. I picked this spot because I thought the water would be a nice touch to the foreground. In some of the shots, you can see Venus reflected in the water. Also, I didn't have to do any light painting as light pollution was more than enough to fill in. The yellow across the horizon is light pollution.

Milky Way landscape photo in Manatee County FL
This an image is made of three images of the horizon stiched together.

Light pollution is very pervasive in the state of Florida. Only a few rarely actual dark spots. Most are on or near the water. When shooting the Milky Way inland, you have to "edit out" the light pollution later in the post. That way, you can pull the detail from the image captured in the camera.

Milky Way landscape photo in Manatee County FL
That cloud hung about during most of my time out there. You need a lot of patience for this craft.

My thought was to use the water's shore to mimic the Milky Way in the sky. I think I needed to be a little higher above the ground for it to be more effective.

Milky Way landscape photo in Manatee County FL
It was about 45° F and for a Florida boy that's cold. So I had to jump in the car to warm up a bit.

A little trick is to leave the car's rear lights on and use it to "paint" the foreground. It adds an otherworldly quality to the composition. The sun was going to be up shortly. However, that's not what's in the photo. That's a light dome from Myakka City.

Milky Way landscape photo in Manatee County FL
One of the last shots before the core began to fade with oncoming sun.

And quickly it fades away as Astronomical Twilight turns into Nautical Twilight.

Milky Way landscape photo in Manatee County FL
The yellow you see is a mix of sunlight and light polltion.

Good Day Sunshine! The night has ended and it's time for bed.

I've been chasing the Milky Way for five years now. It still hasn't gotten old.

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Thank you Margaret


Very nice! Nautical Twilight image colors are striking!

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