Southern Sky Imaged from 38,000 Feet

By: John Goldsmith


Region: Australia and Pacific

Country: Australia

Date: 2013 August 28

The southern sky is imaged on board a jet airliner from an altitude of 38,000 feet (11,582 m). From the photographer "I was returning to my hometown Perth, after attending the Australian Astro Imaging Conference (, held at Queensland. The photo was taken above Central Australia. It is just a 4 second exposure, taken without a tripod at high ISO 6400 and a fast wide-angle lens. Despite traveling at over 850 km/hour, the four second exposure shows sharp, un-trailed stars. The challenges of aircraft movement causing blurred photos was overcome by taking a large number of hand held images. About one fifth of the almost 250 hand held photos were stable enough to show essentially un-trailed star images. The photo, looking directly south, includes the southern Milky Way, the Southern Cross (lower right), Alpha and Beta Centauri, the Coalsack Nebula (dark cloud). The Large Magellanic Cloud is visible in the middle with a light ray passes over it. The South Celestial Pole is above the center of the photo, just below the optical green flare. The four second exposure has recorded stars down to approximately 8th magnitude. Imaged through the thick, multi-layered aircraft window, the brilliant white wing tip light forms spectacular rays of light. Light reflections cause an optical artifact, a green flare in the top of the image, and several white flares appear near the wing tip. The wing appears red, from the aircraft's red illumination." John Goldsmith,

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