Natural Night Lights Over Gemini North

Surrounding the Gemini North telescope are three natural light phenomena that can only be seen in the darkest of skies. These dark skies surround this half of the International Gemini Observatory, supported in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation and operated by NSF NOIRLab, isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of 4214 meters (13,825 feet). High above the nearby cities on the summit of Hawai‘i’s Maunakea the sky avoids the light pollution from city lights and gives way instead to the natural atmospheric and interplanetary phenomena caused by solar activity.

Arching over Gemini North is the faint glow of zodiacal light, along with a patch of brightness called the Gegenschein, both caused by sunlight scattering off a large ring of dust around our Sun. Along the horizon is airglow of atmospheric origin. Airglow forms when molecules in the upper atmosphere become excited by the energy from the Sun and release light of different colors. Though they appear brilliant in this photo, both of these light sources are faint, and are a coveted sight for some stargazers.

This photo was taken as part of the recent NOIRLab 2022 Photo Expedition to all the NOIRLab sites. Tomáš Slovinský, the photographer, is a NOIRLab Audiovisual Ambassador.


International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/T. Slovinský

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Release date:April 17, 2024, noon
Size:20000 x 10335 px

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