An annual Milky Way photography competition has unveiled 25 spectacular images showing off our galaxy in incredible rarely-seen detail.
The stunning photographs, released by travel photography blog Capture The Atlas, show the stars beautifully framing trees, tents and even a monastery.
The astonishing shots have been nominated for the website’s annual Milky Way photographer of the year compilation, held each June to coincide with the peak of the Milky Way season.
The images range from all over the world, including the Spanish mountains, a national park in Namibia, a salt lake in Australia and an air base in the Antarctica.
‘Winter Milky Way’ by Dr. Nicholas Roemmelt. Marmolada, Dolomites – Italy. This climbing route is located on the south face of the Marmolada, the ‘Queen of the Dolomites’. ‘When I saw this glacial gate, it instantly reminded me of a gigantic shark,’ Dr Roemmelt said
‘Double Arch by Pablo Ruiz García. Picos de Europa – Spain. This arch-shaped rock formation is located in ‘La Hermida’ gorge, in the Picos de Europa mountain range in Spain. Pablo Ruiz García said: ‘At first, my initial idea was to capture the galactic center inside the arch, but finally, I decided to shoot the two arches overlapped at this time of the year (late spring) when the Milky Way is still not too high in the sky’
‘To help you find inspiration for planning and executing your Milky Way shots, we’ve gathered the best Milky Way images taken around the world, as we do every year,’ Capture The Atlas says on its website.
‘Buckle up because this trip is going to take you from the far American Wild West to the unfamiliar landscapes of Antarctica, passing by spectacular deserts, glaciers, mountains, beaches, always with the Milky Way shining in the sky.’
‘Enchanted Monastery’ by Ramón Morcillo. Ávila – Spain. This image captures the Milky Way arch above a bell tower. Morcillo, who is pictured in the tower, said: ‘The monastery was an Augustinian convent founded in 1504 and called the Monastery of Our Lady of the Crag. A few hundred miles drive followed by a long walk and a challenging climb and bushwhack ended in this beautiful and magical place. The icing on the cake was to subtly illuminate the upper part of the bell tower and place myself in one of the windows to create this panorama composed of 14 sky/ground photographs and get a very special result’
‘A Night at the Caves’ by – Sam Sciluna. Ta Marija Cave – Malta, a remote location that required a 45-minute hike across a huge boulder field. Sciluna said: ‘We got to the location about an hour before sunset, explored the area, and looked for all the possible compositions. We shot through sunset and blue hour, and then cooked some dinner as we waited for the Milky Way to be in the perfect spot. We spent several hours shooting the Milky Way that night, trying different compositions, and even some panos’
The quality of the image, the story behind the shot and overall the inspiration people can get from the photograph are the main factors for selecting the images, which have been whittled down to the final 25 ‘most inspiring’ pictures of our Milky Way.
Most of the images in the article were taken during the 2019 and the current 2020 Milky Way season, which runs from about March to November each year, Capture The Atlas told Forbes.
‘Even though the Milky Way can be photographed throughout the year, the Galactic Centre, which is the Milky Way core and the area with more interest, is only visible during the commonly known as Milky Way season,’ said Editor Dan Zafra, who curates the exhibition.
‘This season ranges from late March to early October in most of our planet and the peak with more hours of visibility takes place in June.’
‘Base Camp’ by Giulio Cobianchi. Dolomites – Italy. Cobianchi said he shoots the Milky Way 12 months of the year but especially loves capturing shots during the winter season. He said: ‘It fascinates me even more, probably because the Milky Way has cooler colours that combine perfectly with the snow, and also because shooting under these conditions is much more challenging’
‘Nightmare’ by Michael Goh, a self-portrait captured at Dumbleyung Lake, a salt lake located in Western Australia. The trees in this picture trees have died due to the salt levels. Goh said: ‘For this image, the dead trees gave me the idea of capturing them clawing up at the sky – the fish-eye panorama turned out better than expected, as the trees almost looked like tentacles. The location is very dark, so with no moonlight available, I used my self-portrait style with the figure holding the light (now a bit clichéd) to create more depth in the image as a solitary figure standing amongst the dead trees.
Alien Eggs’ by Debbie Heyer. Badlands of New Mexico, US, which is full of mysterious eroding rocks. This shot, reminiscent of a scene from Ridley Scott’s 1979 cinematic masterpiece Alien, was taken in October 2019 on a two-week photo tour through the Southwest of the US. Heyer said: ‘The Badlands of New Mexico are otherworldly and mysterious. They resemble an alien planet. If you don’t believe in aliens, you will after seeing this place. This is not an easy terrain to navigate, and it is very easy to get lost’
Capture the Atlas hopes the competition also helps and inspires people to learn more about the galaxy.
‘Besides the timing, the other fundamental requirement to see the Milky Way are dark skies away from light-pollution,’ said Zafra.
‘This is something more and more difficult to find nowadays in the most populated areas of our planet.’
‘Alone & Together in the Stardust’ by Marco Carotenuto, taken in the Sahara desert, the largest hot desert in the world. Carotenuto said: ‘Staying in the middle of nowhere hundreds of miles away from civilisation and with no electricity, cellular network, or water, certainly puts you to the test’
‘Deadvlei’ by Stefan Liebermann. Namib-Naukluft National Park – Namibia. The trees in Deadvlei have been dead for over 500 years. The saplings pictured grew after local rivers flooded because of severe rainfalls, but died after the sand dunes shifted to section off the river
‘Elemental’ by Miles Morgan. Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii – USA. Kīlauea – located on Hawaiʻi, the US state’s largest island – erupted nearly continuously from 1983 to 2018. Morgan said: ‘Around 3-4 am, many of the planetary elements would be aligning around the plume at the Halema’uma’u crater. When I woke up in the middle of the night, a casual glance outside and…wham! Stars. Trillions of them. Crystal clear skies. This is mainly one image, but the base of the plume and the moon were slightly blown out, so a second darker exposure was blended into those two areas.’
‘Milky Way over Parque Nacional del Teide’ by Mehmet Ergün. Tenerife – Spain. ‘The night sky over Tenerife is renowned worldwide for its excellent conditions for stargazing and astrophotography,’ Ergün said
‘Gran Firmamento’ by Jorgelina Alvarez. This image was taken at Marambio Base in Antarctica, which is located on the Peninsula Antarctica
‘Heavenly Throne’ by Ryan Smith. Southwest USA. Smith was testing out new equipment when he captured this image – the EOS Ra. This astrophotography camera with a built-in infrared-cutting filter allows much higher transmission of deep red infrared rays emitted by nebulae
‘Desert Nights’ by Peter Zelinka. Alabama Hills, California – USA. Alabama Hills are a formation of rounded rocks and eroded hills set between the jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Zelinka said: ‘This is one of the most iconic locations in the western USA, with its incredible snow-capped Sierra Mountains, unique rock formations, and dusty roads. In June 2019, I spent a few nights camping in the desert beneath the stars. Once the Milky Way was shining brightly overhead, I wandered through the brush and found this unique arch’
For the full set of images and list photographers’ quotes visit the Capture The Atlas online gallery.
The website also has a list of helpful tips on how to catch the best shots of the Milky Way ‘like an expert’.
HOW OLD IS THE OLDEST STAR IN THE MILKY WAY?
Scientists in Spain have discovered one of the oldest stars in the Milky Way
A newly discovered star is thought to be one of the oldest in the Milky Way.
Scientists at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in Spain believe that it might have formed about 300 million years after the ‘Big Bang’.
IAC researcher Jonay González Hernández said: ‘Theory predicts that these stars could form just after, and using material from, the first supernovae, whose progenitors were the first massive stars in the Galaxy.’
Researchers hope the star, known as J0815+4729, which is in line with the Lynx constellation, will help them learn more about the Big Bang, the popular theory about the galaxy’s evolution.
IAC director Rafael Rebolo said: ‘Detecting lithium gives us crucial information related to Big Bang nucleosynthesis. We are working on a spectrograph of high resolution and wide spectral range in order to be able to measure (among other things) the detailed chemical composition of stars with unique properties such as J0815+4729.’