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The Big Dipper Sparkles Over Dramatic Landscape in Stunning Night-Sky Photo
The Big Dipper glows above the Pulo do Lobo landscape in the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve near Mértola, Portugal.
Credit: Miguel Claro

Miguel Claro is a professional photographer, author and science communicator based in Lisbon, Portugal, who creates spectacular images of the night sky. As a European Southern Observatory photo ambassador, a member of The World At Night and the official astrophotographer of the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve, he specializes in astronomical skyscapes that connect Earth and the night sky. Join him here as he takes us through his photograph "The Colorful Constellation of the Big Dipper Above Pulo do Lobo."

A beautiful night scene captured from Pulo do Lobo — a waterfall at the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve near Mértola, Portugal — shows the bright, colorful stars that compose the well-known asterism known as the Big Dipper.

Located in the constellation Ursa Major (the "Big Bear"), the Big Dipper is probably the easiest constellation to recognize in the night sky. The star pattern is often used as a reference point by novice stargazers and experienced astronomers alike.

A long-exposure photo captured from Pulo do Lobo in Portugal's Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve shows star trails around the constellation Ursa Major, home of the Big Dipper.
A long-exposure photo captured from Pulo do Lobo in Portugal's Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve shows star trails around the constellation Ursa Major, home of the Big Dipper.
Credit: Miguel Claro

In places untouched by light pollution, countless visible stars can appear to blend together in a sea of small, bright dots, and stargazers may find it more difficult to identify the North Star, also known as Polaris. The Big Dipper can come in handy for locating Polaris, because two of its bright stars — Dubhe and Merak — point straight to it. If you draw a line from Merak to Dubhe and extend it by about five times the distance between the two, you'll find Polaris twinkling at the end of the much fainter Little Dipper.

Visible in the foreground of the photo is part of the landscape of Pulo do Lobo, the most dramatic stretch of the Guadiana River, located about 11 miles (18 kilometers) north of Mértola. Here, the Guadiana is reduced to a narrow strait just a few meters wide and flows into a small waterfall about 13 feet (4 meters) tall.

Editor's note: If you captured an amazing astronomy photo and would like to share it with Space.com for a story or gallery, send images and comments to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com

To see more of Claro's amazing astrophotography, visit his website, miguelclaro.com. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.