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Smashing the Crystalline Sphere

2 Nov 2015, 07:01 UTC
Smashing the Crystalline Sphere
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Question: We live in a large city, and had never seen the Milky Way until our recent trip out west to the Grand Tetons. First, there were way more stars than I can normally see. But there was also this cloud-like streak of light across the sky. The park ranger told us it was the Milky Way, but wasn’t able to explain just what it was. Can you help? — RJ, New York
Answer: Certainly. It’s a topic I’ve written about before. See, for example, my Sep 8, 2004 post. Or my Aug 24, 2005 post. But those were back in the grayscale newsprint era, before Skylights went “live” online. I can do a better job now in full color with external links. The photo above shows the Milky Way as seen from a dark location — away from the effects of light pollution. You won’t see it at all inside New York, even from the middle of Central Park. In fact, many urban residents alive today have never seen the Milky Way.
The thumbnail below shows the Milky Way from an even darker location. This was a long exposure that brings out more detail and structure. In addition to ...

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