The glowing Milky Way shines over Rattlesnake Lake in Washington State in this stunning image. Astrophotographer Matt Zietzke took the photo from Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend, Washington on May 19, 2014.
"This panorama was my first attempt at making a night sky panoramic photo, so the first purpose was to see what I could get out of such a shot, and to figure out what the difficulties are in taking such an image," Zietzke told Space.com via email. "I didn’t actually expect for such a cool shot to emerge from the original."
The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy spanning between 100,000 to 120,000 light-years in diameter. Roughly 400 billion stars populate the galaxy. The dazzling band we see from Earth is the center portion of the galaxy where a gigantic black hole billions of times the size of the sun resides. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). [Stunning Photos of Our Milky Way Galaxy (Gallery )]
While this is Zietzke’s first attempt at taking a night sky panorama, he writes he began experimenting with astrophotography at a young age and continued to pursue the art.
“In a sense, I’m flying by the seat of my pants, experimenting in two subjects I thoroughly enjoy, and I get to share the beauty of the night sky to boot," he added. "It's amazing to me that the only credit I can really take is for the technical knowledge of how to capture the beauty of what’s already out there."
To see more amazing night sky photos submitted by Space.com readers, visit our astrophotography archive.
Editor's Note: If you have an amazing night sky photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.