The Milky Way Over L.A.

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Among astronomers, “light pollution” is a serious problem; the glare from city lights makes observation of the night sky nearly impossible. Previously, the only solution to the problem was to travel to rural areas where there was no glare from civilization. The observatories at Mount Wilson and Palomar Mountain were both built in what were then remote uninhabited areas for this reason, and both are now facing the problem as suburban sprawl brings the lights ever closer.

Despite light pollution, photographer Aaron Kiely, who happens to be a scientist at JPL (and also happens to be a fellow archer; he and his son are among my wife’s students), has created an amazing photo of the Milky Way as seen from the foothills above Los Angeles. Using over 200 exposures of 20 seconds each, he wrote a computer program to track and compensate for the movement of the stars over the course of time. Full details of the process are included in his Flickr page.

Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog has a nice write-up of the photo.

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