UVa Astronomy News Picture Archive

February 2008

Picture of the Month

Graduate students Rachael Beaton and George Privon captured this spectacular view of the night sky and high clouds at Fan Mtn. observatory this past November with an 18-mm lens operating at f/3.5. The 40-inch telescope enclosure is seen silhouetted against star trails from the constellations Perseus and Andromeda. The stars have made arcs or star trails across the sky due to the Earth's rotation during the 15-minute exposure time used to make this image.

The faint blue haze that is visible between the stars above the telescope dome is not really haze at all - it is actually the combined light of billions of faint and distant stars in the disk of our own Milky Way Galaxy. From our point of view on Earth, Perseus - along with the constellations Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Auriga, Orion, and Gemini - all lie nearby the infamous "Milky Way" on the sky, which represents the direction in which most of the visible stars in our Galaxy are located. This time of year, the "Milky Way" can only be seen as a mere faint band stretching from the SE to NW horizons from suburban areas, but it can be a dramatic sight from dark skies and in photographs.

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