Answers is the sky- Hurricane Ridge

Imagine if we lived under skies full of stars! Well, the reality is that we do. Except, most of us live under heavily light polluted skies and have fewer opportunities to see the very galaxy in which we live. 

Here’s a picture of the Milky Way over the city of Seattle as observed from Hurricane Ridge (Olympic National Park). The National Park Service hosts a Night Sky Program at Hurricane Ridge on clear nights with a new moon. A master observer equipped with 2 telescopes as our group guide, we drove up the mountain late at night. We saw the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, the Andromeda Galaxy and many more wonders. After my turn at the telescope, I went just a little further for a photo of the Milky Way. 

It fascinates me that the Milky Way always looks better in photographs than in real life. The sceptic will tell you that this is because most Milky Way photos are Photoshopped! I confess that is true but there is more. 

Our retinas have two types of light sensitive cells, Rods and Cones. Rods are very sensitive and can see at low light levels but do not see color. Cones require brighter light and can see color. So most of our night vision uses our Rods and is effectively like a ‘Black and White’ image. But this isn’t true of our digital cameras which have color vision at night. And that explains why the Milky Way looks like a grey band of light in person but has colors that pop out in a photograph! 

Thank you for this snippet, Subbu Venkataraman ( )

Contributed by: Subbu Venkataraman | Location: Olympic National Park, USA

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