West Spanish Peak at Night

November 17, 2014

Tracking Milk Over West Spanish Peak web-Display

Photographer: Mike Berenson; Mike's Web site
Summary AuthorMike Berenson

The photo above shows snow-capped West Spanish Peak, Colorado, beneath an amazingly starry sky. Not seen is the Moon, setting over my shoulder. However, in the foreground at lower left you can see the lingering moonlight hitting one of the so-called Great Dikes of West Spanish Peak. Overhead, clouds of stars and gas can be detected including the Eagle, Omega, Lagoon and Butterfly Nebulas.

The Great Dikes radiate away from the Spanish Peaks. They took shape as magma was pushed towards the surface by tectonic forces. This upwards push cracked the surrounding rocks filling them with magma, forming the dikes. One of the more notable longer dikes in the area is appropriately nicknamed Stairway to Heaven.

On the early spring night I captured this image I ran into an especially interesting challenge. The location I initially picked was up on a hill, giving me a fine view of one of the Great Dikes. I scouted the area on a few occasions in November 2013 and even shot several images of the night sky and Comet ISON. However, when I returned a few months later to shoot the Milky Way, I was surprised to find that a big, brand-new gate was now blocking the road up onto the hill. Apparently, in those few months, homeowners in the area had created a gated community. For a few minutes, I considered driving away empty handed. That's when I discovered this backup location that saved the day. Photo taken on April 9, 2014.

Photo details: Nikon D800 Digital SLR Camera; Nikon 5mm f/1.4 lens. iOptron SkyTracker Settings: 3 exposures; 2 tracked exposures at ISO 800, f/2.8 for 4 minutes; 1 non-tracked exposure at ISO 400, f/2.8 for 4 minutes. For more details about this photo click here.