In the early morning hours of July 16th 2023 at Grand Mesa Observatory there was the most spectacular show of airglow I’ve ever seen. From the naked eye it was visible although the vibrant photographic colors weren’t apparent the shapes and transparency of the airglow were easily seen with the naked eye. It moved quickly, dancing in a way and I can only guess this was because of the high winds in the area associated with a strong high pressure heat dome over the US Southwest at the time. This is my hunch. Airglow is a faint emission of light by a planetary atmosphere, it originates with self-illuminated gases and has no relationship with Earth’s magnetism or sunspot activity. It is unrelated to Aurora. Additional info about Airglow can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airglow.
In this image you can also see the Milky Way band in the middle of the sky, from the lower left it starts around the constellation Scorpius with the bulge of the center of the Milky Way disk apparent. The colorful Rho Ophiuchi is the yellow, red, and blue nebula off from the Milky Way disc above the roll off roof observatory. Moving up and centrally there are numerous nebula that show up, the Lagoon Nebula M8, Trifid M20, Eagle Nebule M16 and Omega Nebula M17 which show up as smaller points of red in this image. Further along the central Milky Way disc there is a lot of dust and clouds obscuring much behind them, this is often referred to as the Great Rift. Further along you’ll come across the North America Nebula NGC 7000, aptly named due to its similar shape to the continent of North America on Earth. Further along in the constellation Cepheus there lies the Elephants Trunk Nebula and larger nebula IC1396 which glows red and has a luminous cloud similar in apparent size to the North American nebula. Further along are the Heart and Soul Nebula IC 1805 and Sharpless 2-190 which lay close to the horizon glowing red next to the Double Cluster NGC 869 and NGC 884 to their left in this image. These observations are punctuated by the also visible Andromeda Galaxy about 15-20 degrees to the south of the Heart and Soul nebula and many times brighter in this image. At 2.537 million light years distant it’s what many consider the most distant object in the night sky visible to the naked eye. Additionally, directly up or northeast from the Andromeda Galaxy is the Triangulum Galaxy which is a bit farther at 2.73 million light years distant. There are some who say they can see the Triangulum Galaxy with the unaided dark-adapted eye from an exceptionally dark location although there is some debate about this. If it were true and somehow able to be determined the Triangulum Galaxy would then be the most distant naked eye visible object. The Andromeda Galaxy is heading towards a collision with our home galaxy the Milky Way, although I wouldn’t hold your breath for this as the collision won’t happen until about 4.5 billion years from now.
Location: Grand Mesa Observatory, Purdy Mesa, CO
~107 frame panorama 13 sec @6400 ISO
Camera: Canon 6D Hutech UV/IR Mod
Lens: Canon EF 35mm f/1.2L II USM
Reveal Focus Filter by David Lane
Processing: Photoshop CC, PTGui