Dark River of the Galaxy

Pic: Rogelio Bernal Andreo

Today's image from Astronomy Picture of the Day, by Rogelio Bernal Andreo of Deep Sky Colors is something you have to enjoy in its full splendor. Go on. We'll wait.

From APOD:

A Dark River of dust seems to run from our Galactic Center, then pool into a starfield containing photogenic sky wonders. Scrolling right will reveal many of these objects including (can you find?) the bright orange star Antares, a blue(-eyed) horsehead nebula, the white globular star cluster M4, the bright blue star system Rho Ophiuchi, the dark brown Pipe nebula, the red Lagoon nebula, the red and blue Trifid nebula, the red Cat's Paw Nebula, and the multicolored but still important center of our Galaxy. This wide view captures in exquisite detail about 50 degrees of the nighttime sky, 100 times the size of the full Moon, covering constellations from the Archer (Sagittarius) through the Snake Holder (Ophiuchus), to the Scorpion (Scorpius). The Dark River itself can be identified as the brown dust lane connected to Antares, and spans about 100 light years. Since the Dark River dust lane lies only about 500 light years away, it only appears as a bridge to the much more distant Galactic Center, that actually lies about 25,000 light years farther away.

Rogelio added these notes:

When I drove a total of 1,200 miles to capture my widefield image of the IFN I thought I had gone too far and told myself I should control myself a bit. So when I calculated the total driving time for this image to be over 1,800 miles (and that's not including the Rho Op area on the left of the image - otherwise, add 800 miles to the 1,800!) I realized I didn't talk to myself clearly enough! :-)

The mosaic above is made out of 52 frames. If we take out the 12 frames from the already mosaic I had done of the Rho Op area, that leaves the 40 frames I captured and processed this month of June alone. Each frame is 3x5 minutes of L and 3x3 minutes each RGB, all bin 2x2.

I captured the data in 9 different nights: 6 outside of the DARC Observatory, 2 during a camping weekend in Plettstone (Bear Valley), and one additional frame catured at the back of the Lick Observatory. All during a period of around 12 days. Um, yes... I do have a DAY job too!!

As I mentioned earlier, the total round trip driving time to these dark sites added up to 1,840 miles driven. Total exposure time for the 40 frames is around 40 hours (48 if we count the Rho Op area) with a time in the field exceeding over 70 hours. The original image, over 18,000 pixels wide, can be provided upon request. It's just too big in size I'd rather not to pay the bandwidth toll (yes I pay for my bandwidth).

Links: APOD | Deep Sky Colors

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I always thought that our planet just happened to be out of viewing range for all these beatiful nebulae that telescopes see. I was quite disappointed to find out that our sky is filled with them, looming large above us... but we can't see them because they are too dim.
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