Observatory Captures Epic View of the Milky Way Galaxy Thanks to Lunar Eclipse

During the May 15-16 lunar eclipse, the Gemini Observatory South in Chile briefly captured stunning video of the Milky Way as the Moon hid out in Earth’s shadow.

While most people were busy oohing and ahhing at the May 15-16 “super flower blood moon,” observatories were doing what they always do: continuously scanning the sky, mapping out stars, black holes, and other celestial objects. Including the Milky Way Galaxy itself, which the “All Sky Camera” at the Gemini Observatory South in Chile (or “Gemini South”) captured with thrilling clarity thanks to the Moon briefly hiding out in Earth’s shadow.

In the tweet above the Gemini Observatory’s office in the U.S. shows the moment the All Sky Camera (or ASCAM) at Gemini South—an advanced optical/infrared telescope that’s located 8,900 feet above sea level in the Chilean Andes—captures the Milky Way as the Moon passes into Earth’s shadow (or “umbra”) and briefly becomes nothing more than a giant, fat star in the sky.

As the Gemini office notes, the moment of galactic clarity occurs at around the 12 second mark. ASCAM—which is actually a camera system designed to detect aircrafts in order to prevent propagation of laser light from the observatory that could be a safety hazard for pilots and passengers—appears to remain still while the Milky Way galaxy wheels around above it; suddenly studded with brilliant, sparkling stars once the Moon shrinks into darkness. (Immediately below is a GIF of the Moon entering into Earth’s umbra.)

The galaxy’s disk—that is, the galaxy’s flat plane of stars, toward which Earth looks—itself even appears in the clip; growing into a long streak of puffy white light that arrives and then fades like a scar in the sky itself.

Gemini South—which has a sister telescope in Hawaii, Gemini North—also appears in the clip; moving around, capturing spectacular images in both the infrared and visual bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Speaking of which, this comet nucleus scoops out a brilliant blue circle in the night sky. And in the infrared band, there’s the James Webb Telescope, which recently captured its first image ever.

Feature image: US National Gemini Office

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