Milky Way over mountains at Waterton Lakes National Park by Carl James. | SkyNews
Milky Way over mountains by Carl James

Milky Way by Carl James

Carl James captured our Photo of the Week May 28, 2021 — a beautiful image of the Milky Way galaxy from Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta.

Carl James captured our Photo of the Week for May 28, 2021 — a beautiful image of the Milky Way galaxy almost reclining on the mountains of Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.

Milky Way over mountains at Waterton Lakes National Park by Carl James. | SkyNews
Milky Way over mountains by Carl James

The stars of Scorpius grace the centre-right of the image, with the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex’s dust trails streaming around the centre of the galaxy.

This image was one in a panorama mosaic. Using a Nikon Z6 stock camera and a Nikkor 24mm S lens set to f/2.5, for the full mosaic, James took 16 120-second exposures to image the sky, and eight 150-second exposures to capture the foreground. He captured the image on April 17, 2021.

James said the panorama was an image he had been wanting to try for over two years, but he just wasn’t sure if it was possible.

“My goal was to see if I could capture the Milky Way core over the mountain peaks at the south end of the lake taken from the north end of the lake’s village beach,” he said. “In order to capture the Milky Way over the 180 degrees needed — a.k.a. the full length of the lake — this meant it had to be achieved early in the year before spring run off from the mountains, whilst the lake was still low. With the Milky Way rising in the early morning throughout February and March and doesn’t get high enough I decided April was the key month.”

James sent images of his panoramic imaging rig, as well, which has served him “very well” for over three years. He said the rig — which only weights two pounds — was low cost, low profile and lightweight. As well, it allows him to navigate the night sky with tracking on or off. He added that when he uses lenses with long focal lengths, he usually uses a counterweight.

“This is 100 per cent my design, and a lot of thought went into it,” he wrote. “When I designed this, it had to be inexpensive and lightweight for my Mini Tracker. It also had to be low profile and had to put my camera as close as possible to the tracker. I couldn’t afford to build this huge tower of components that stands out like a wind sail as I live in the southwest of Alberta, where the wind is the norm here, for sure.”

An astrophoto of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex by Stephan Hamel. | SkyNews
Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex by Stephan Hamel

Our runner up this week — and it was a tough week for the judges, indeed — is Stephan Hamel’s stunning close-up of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex.

Rho Ophiuchi is a favourite of astrophotographers. The star in the yellow nebulous area is Antares, the heart of Scorpius and a binary star that includes a red supergiant. The red point to the right is Sigma Scorpii, a multiple star system. Between the two sits the a globular cluster, Messier 4. IC 4603 and IC 4604 provide the blue nebulosity at the top, the latter being lit up by the multiple-star system Rho Ophiuchi.

Using a ZWO ASI2600MC camera and a Samyang 135mm f/2 lens (set to f/2.8), Hamel captured the complex in three hours of 180-second exposures on May 14, 2021, from Hanwell, New Brunswick.

“This object is difficult to image at our latitude, as it is only high enough above the horizon for a few hours during the short summer nights,” he noted.

Keep your eyes on the skies — and on the prize! Prizes for the 2020-21 SkyNews Photo of the Week contest are sponsored by Sky-Watcher, Celestron, iOptron and The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Click here for more details on the prize packages that will be awarded to the best photos this year.