A sky full of awesome

I love looking up at the night sky. Whenever I’m outside at night, the first thing I do is look up. How can I not? But there’s always something marring my view – light pollution, clouds, the moon, treetops, and, oh yeah, the Earth itself! I’ve often thought how great it would be if the Earth, Moon, and Sun were to vanish and to be able to see the entire night sky at the same time*. How cool would that be? This cool:

Nick Risinger’s 37,440-image portrait of the entire night sky. The entire sky.

That’s the whole night sky. The entire. Night. Sky! This work of awesome comes to us courtesy of astrophotographer Nick Risinger’s Photomic Sky Survey. And wow, what a sky it is!

The first thing that jumps out is the Milky Way. Here, we see it just as it really is – a great spiral galaxy seen edge-on, or in this case, within the disk of the galaxy itself. In fact, it’s really no different than other spiral galaxies seen edge-on as well. At center is a well-defined bulge partially obstructed by dust silhouetted by the bright stars beyond. Toward the edges are the telltale populations of younger stars. In other words, your typical spiral galaxy!

To the lower right are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds – two irregular-shaped satellite galaxies that orbit the Milky Way.

And there is so much more detail in this image. To experience it, you really want to check out the zoomable version. Seriously, click the link. Click it now!

If that wasn’t cool enough, check out the 360-degree version; you’ll feel like you’re floating in space! Make sure you are in full-screen mode. And maybe dim the lights – it’s that awesome.

How he do that?

To pull this off, Nick travelled more than 60,000 miles around the globe for the better part of a year taking no less than 37,440 exposures of the sky at night. But it wasn’t just a matter of simply picking a destination, going there and wait for the Sun to go down and shoot. Nick had to plan his destinations well in advance to find clear, dark skies and to be there when there during New Moon.

After a year, Nick then worked to stich together all 37.440 exposures to make this beautiful all-sky masterpiece. Nick has a really cool writeup of the project. His story is as fascinating as the image itself.

An app for that

If you’d like to appreciate Nick’s gorgeous work on the go, he has an app for iPhone and iPad available. If you prefer to just hang it on your wall, there are some rather nice prints available as well (my birthday is coming up…).

I really have to hand it to Nick Risinger for a tremendous effort and a spectacular result!

* Allowing, of course, for the ability to actually survive under those conditions