2
$\begingroup$

I recall seeing the Milky Way in 1987 from the edge of the Manzanar internment camp (Owens Valley, California). It was a Moonless night with perfectly clear skies and the location was (and still is) very Dark Sky. I could clearly see everything around me as I walked around. Trees, bushes, dry creek bed, trail, the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the entire floor of the Owens Valley... everything lit by only starlight. I was mesmerized. It was like living within a black and white movie.

Does anyone have a good image that reasonably represents the sky and surrounding landscape as the human eye would really see it? Not the carefully crafted images with color and 'drama'.

I realize that the image would almost certainly have to be a composite of two images because of the fact that the landscape is so dim relative to star pinpoints. I'm not asking for perfect accuracy, just a fair representation.

$\endgroup$

2 Answers 2

3
$\begingroup$

No, because the way your eyes react to the actual low light conditions of nighttime is completely different to how you eyes react looking at a screen. A screen is incapable of recreating the night sky, (except perhaps a planitarium with a full 360-degree view)

This means that an "image" isn't going to work. We can't control the brightness of you monitor, nor the brightness of your room. We can't control the size of your screen nor how close you will place your face to the screen. We can't control the black point of your monitor (which isn't actually black!) We can't therefore make an image that accurately reflects what you will see when you look at the night sky with dark-adjusted eyes.

When you look at the night sky, you will be looking with "rods" active, since these are the most light sensitive cells in your eyes. Even the "black" of your monitor is a lot brighter than the milkyway.

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ OK, I'll agree. I think I'll edit question and body to "reasonably well" rather than "accurately". Would this be achievable? My goal is to have something to show others what my experience was like. $\endgroup$
    – BradV
    Commented Apr 26 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ I still think it is impossible. It is like a photograph of the eclipse. No image can compare to reality. No image could show others what the experience of a dark night sky is really like. A planitarium can come closest, but even so it's not the same. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Commented Apr 26 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that no flat image can capture the wonder and awe I felt that night. It was so expansive and immersive. I was just hoping for a more true to life overall image to show others instead of highly processed dramatic but unrealistic glamor shots. $\endgroup$
    – BradV
    Commented Apr 27 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ no photos can fully capture the grand vistas of the Sierra Nevada or Yosemite but Ansel Adams did create some of the most powerful B/W photos ever created of these places. $\endgroup$
    – BradV
    Commented Apr 27 at 3:00
2
$\begingroup$

Why not go out into the country on a moonless night? Or better yet - visit a dark sky reserve?

Regardless, I do have an image of the Milky Way - this is quite similar to how it appeared to my unaided eye when I took it. enter image description here

There's not much to see when it comes to landscape though...A camera wouldn't be able to see your surroundings quite like your eyes can on such a dark night. enter image description here

$\endgroup$
2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ your last sentence captures my quest. you are wrong, it is very possible to capture the landscape by starlight using long exposure and then process it to appropriate dimness and contrast relative to the MW sky. I imagine composite images like this are out there somewhere! $\endgroup$
    – BradV
    Commented Apr 27 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ I meant in terms of raw images - I guess you could try to process it to simulate your real-world surroundings, but as James mentioned, that's still relative to your device's settings, and an image can't compare to upfront experience. $\endgroup$
    – 4NT4R3S
    Commented Apr 27 at 19:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .