Hatcher Pass, Alaska
Nikon D850 with 12mm
20s, ƒ/2.8, ISO 4000
Stretching high above Willow Creek in Hatcher Pass, Alaska, on the clear night of November 13, 2023, millions of our neighboring stars shine in our home galaxy, the Milky Way. How do you describe what it feels like to gaze upon a star-filled sky? Standing on Earth and looking out into the vastness of space is a feeling - profound, unique, even primal - shared by many since the dawn of humankind.
This part of the Milky Way is known as the Cygnus-Orion Arm, one of several arms that comprise the spiral galaxy that we live in. We put names on the features we see to help navigate the starfield. The brightest patch here is called the Cygnus Star Cloud which contains millions of suns, the constellation Cygnus the Swan and the Northern Cross asterism. The long dark shadow in the center is referred to as the Great Rift and is a cosmic dust cloud with particles finer than smoke that obscures the view of even more stars behind it. The dark dusty splotches at top, named the Northern Coalsack and the Funnel Cloud, are dark nebula, a type of interstellar cloud that’s the gravitational spawning ground for stars and planets. The tall tree on the right has a bright star shining like an ornament on its tip. This is Vega, a main sequence star like our Sun, but over twice as big and 40 times brighter. Its relatively close proximity of only 25 light years (150 trillion miles) makes it one of the brightest stars in the sky.
When I’m out under the stars, I often ponder and try to grasp the expansiveness of our universe and continually find it absolutely mind-blowing. Ultimately, it’s awe that I feel when staring deep into the nighttime sky and I find this awe inspiring!