A new (OLD) friend

Duke Johnson

Several weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the Astronomical League Convention in Bryce canyon. The weather was great for observing but I never got to look through a telescope. I wasn’t kept away by any horrible circumstances or conspiracy, but by my own desire to spend a night with what I hope will become a friend for life. About an hour before dark, I drove the hour and a quarter to Cedar Breaks National Monument. There I hoped to find a tree that had been described to me by a friend. Arriving about midway through twilight (10 p.m. or so), I quickly hiked the trail to the 1,600 year old bristlecone pine on a ridgeline. The remaining snow banks and mud made the trip slightly more difficult than expected, but I was still able to get there in time to scope out angles and set up. My first view was of the Milky Way arching just over the top of the tree and stretching from north to south. As the final twilight faded, it didn’t take long for the galactic core to appear in all its glory.

The Andromeda Galaxy, double cluster in Perseus and Milky Way

The Andromeda Galaxy, double cluster in Perseus and Milky Way

As the Milky Way climbed higher, I was able to shift my position to capture its light intertwining with the outstretched branches.

Bristlecone and Galactic Core

Bristlecone and Galactic Core

During the nearly 5 hours I spent there, I enjoyed the solitude with the sentinel that has watched the slow passage of time.  Imagine existing while history unfolded! This tree remained little changed as the middle ages unfurled; it existed through the dark ages, the crusades, untold wars and conflicts and the most monumental achievements of the human race. It was only in the last 2.5% of its life that we landed on the moon! This coupled with the light from the stars that have taken hundreds and thousands of years to reach the two of us added to the special feeling of the scene. Near the end of my time with my OLD friend, I was fortunate enough to shoot the Andromeda galaxy, Cassiopeia, and the double cluster in Perseus nestled near the outstretched branches of the sentinel that no longer bear life.

The Andromeda Galaxy, double cluster in Perseus and Milky Way

The Andromeda Galaxy, double cluster in Perseus and Milky Way

The light from the Andromeda galaxy left there about 2.5 million years ago, so even my old friend is young by that standard.

Next time, I’ll post some of my experiences from a recent trip to the Moab area. Until then, take a drive out of the city and get out and see the real thing!

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2 thoughts on “A new (OLD) friend

  1. Amazing images, Duke! So beautiful. I am impressed by the amount of effort that it takes to obtain images like this. Going without sleep, waiting patiently and learning to select the right view are a few of the extraordinary feats of night sky photography. Kudos to you.

  2. Thanks. I’m glad you like them. It takes a little bit of planning, but there always seems to be a foreground object that looks good under the Milky Way. Processing time is usually between 5-20 hours/image.

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