Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dark skies of eastern New Mexico

On 7/22/12, the family and I drove from Pennsylvania to Arizona to visit my father and family.  It was a long stretch from St. Louis to Albuquerque but a couple hours before we hit the hotel we drove under some amazingly dark skies.  With much whining and gnashing of teeth from the back seat I pulled off at a random exit on I40 (marked Las Vegas) and into a field.  Stepping out of the car, there was a collective WOW from the wife and kids as they looked up and saw the brightest Milky Way they have ever seen arching from horizon to horizon as I dug my tripod out from under coolers and suitcases.

Unfortunately, it was very warm that night causing an INSANE amount of  nasty green noise in this 30 second exposure at ISO3200.  Needless to say MAJOR noise reduction work was needed in post processing to salvage this shot.  A car was nice enough to light the foreground for me and there was a thunderstorm in the distant horizon.  I could have spent hours out there but we were pressed for time, I'm just glad the boss let me stop at all.

In my normal observing location in northwest Pennsylvania, the "Teapot" of Sagittarius is fairly low on the horizon and the curve of Scorpius' tail dips below.  In the southern states both constellations are much higher meaning the bright center of our own galaxy is riding high in the southern sky giving a more spectacular view.
30s f4.5 @ ISO3200

rough constellation guides

pre noise reduction