The Cape Cod National Seashore might be best known for its summer crowds, quaint and charming New England architecture, great seafood, and classic lighthouses. However, as spring approaches, night sky photographers know Cape Cod for another of its wonderful attributes - dark skies with very limited light pollution.
Because of its location and surrounding moisture sources, getting perfectly clear nights on Cape Cod at any time of year can be a challenge. However, forecasted clear skies on a Saturday night in mid-March sent this photographer and a friend scrambling from our central Connecticut homes, leaving at 11:00 p.m. and arriving at the Marconi Wireless Station in South Wellfleet at 2:30 a.m. after a 220 mile journey. Why? The opportunity to capture a Milky Way panorama! In March, the core of the Milky Way becomes visible above the horizon for the first time for the season, which generally runs until September. Rising low over the horizon and late in the night, or more correctly stated, early in the morning, the arch of the Milky Way stretches from the Southeast to the North in a beautiful display of light that has traveled for 25,000 or more light years to reach Earth.
Braving sub-freezing temperatures and a firm ocean breeze, my frozen fingers were able to manipulate my camera controls to capture my first ever Milky Way panorama, a 36-image (9 positions x 4 images, stacked) 180-degree display of one of the greatest sights to see on Cape Cod. The core will rise earlier in the night and higher above the horizon as the season progresses, making panorama shots much more challenging, but instead combining with the various beautiful foreground elements available on The Cape to provide some of the best night photography opportunities on the East Coast.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor