AZ/LV Trip Part 2: Southwest Nights

One of the reasons we planned our trip during the beginning of May was its timing around the new moon (No moon in the sky). Without the moon, we would be able to fully appreciate the dark skies of Arizona. You can't truly appreciate just how amazing the night sky looks until going to places like Arizona. Unfortunately, here on the east coast, city lights are everywhere. You have to travel very far, sometimes hours away from where you live to experience a truly dark sky. Stepping out of my home in Newark on a clear night, I can see 10, maybe 15 stars? In Arizona, simply driving 15-20 minutes outside of the city allows you to look up at thousands of stars. Going even further away from city lights to the Grand Canyon allows you to see the galactic plane of the Milky Way. The pictures below required a lot of planning, being up during hours you should be sleeping, and of course clear skies. Cloudy skies were present most of the trip. Luckily, some of the nights had some key breaks allowing me to capture these photos. 

Grand Canyon - the first night of our trip, we left the hotel in Flagstaff at 1am and arrived at Mather Point at the Grand Canyon at 2:30am

@ Mather Point looking south towards the Milky Way galactic plane, and the canyon wall

Big Dipper. (Can you see it?)  Looking west from Mather Point, the orange glow in the distance is from Las Vegas, over 100 miles away...

Clouds coming in and out of the frame... caught some shooting stars from the Eta Aquarids Meteor shower, and some planes...

Milky Way with sunrise coming

Sedona - After spending the day in the Sedona, we stuck around after midnight to stargaze around Courthouse Butte. Shortly after arriving, clouds began to overtake the sky.

Looking south towards Courthouse Butte (left) and Bell Rock (right). The three bright points to the right of Courthouse Butte are actually Saturn, Mars, and the star Antares

Looking east towards Lee Mountain, you can faintly see the thin white star clusters of the galactic plane as clouds begin to obscure the sky

Humphrey's Peak - located directly North of Flagstaff lies Arizona's tallest mountain, Humphrey's Peak. On our last night in Arizona, I headed out around 1am to try to capture the Milky Way rising over the mountain. Again, cloudiness was present most of the night. Despite the obstructed skies, I was able to get some awesome shots of the mountain peak and the Milky Way rising over. 

The Milky Way over Humphrey's Peak's summit engulfed in clouds, the orange sky glow is from Flagstaff, about 30 miles south

Being out in the middle of night, can be a little bit scary. This night, in particular, i was out solo, 30 miles north of Flagstaff with no sign of life...haha. The solitude, however, allowed me to take this picture right in the middle of the road looking south. Notice Mars shining bright almost directly above the yellow line, and the galactic plane of the Milky Way peaking through on the left

The galactic core peaking through before clouds started to take over the skies over Humphrey's Peak

Vegas - after several nights under dark skies, we spent several nights in the total opposite environment under the lights of Sin City...

Bellagio Fountains

The Las Vegas Strip

View from the Stratosphere

View from our hotel balcony