There is Moon Madness and then there is Milky Way Madness

I confess, I suffer from an extreme case of Milky Way Madness. Living in the northeast of the US creates difficulties in seeing the Milky Way during its “season”, which is when the galactic core is visible in the northern hemisphere. From March until October, the galactic core is visible, albeit pending clear and dark skies. It would seem that clear and dark skies wouldn’t be a rare occurrence, but the sad reality is that they are rare.

The prevailing issue is light pollution, which permeates wide expanses of the region, effectively blocking the Milky Way from view. It takes planning to find a location that isn’t swamped by street lights, exterior building lights, parking lot lights, headlights, security lights and more lights. Once a primo spot as been established, you wait. If a clear night is in the cards, hopefully it is one that isn’t washed out by the Moon. In truly dark sky areas, you can see the Milky Way, even on a bright moonlit night, but that is a story for another day.

On more occasions than I care to remember, I’ve ventured out to a well planned, theoretically dark area with equally theoretical clear skies only to discover that the forecast was wrong. Yes, I know, it’s such a rare thing when the forecasters blow it (cough cough), I should overlook the rare way-off forecast. Besides the aggravation of traveling hours only to discover the sky is clouded over, the madness ramps up. Necessity (in my case, Milky Way crazy) is the Mother of Invention.

I do a great deal of infrared photography in addition to night photography. Infrared cameras pick up much more than the narrow slice of visible light of the electromagnetic spectrum. Depending on the camera’s dynamic range, night photography is fully in its playbook. I have been photographing the night skies with my infrared camera (as well as my normal camera). Though it is no surprise infrared cuts through haze and is used in astronomy applications, it has delivered a spike of pure joy to my Milky Way Madness syndrome. I can photograph the Milky Way in my own backyard, which is in a heavily light saturated area (Class 5 on the Bortle scale) and I can capture the magnificence of my obsession!

Color me giddy.

All Images © Silvana Della Camera

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