Thursday, May 23, 2013

Milky Way galaxy captured in Singapore!

Milky Way, our galaxy, is considered by many to be virtually impossible to see with our unaided eyes in Singapore for many years even on the clearest nights. We know who to "thank" - the ever increasing light-pollution situation in urban cities like ours which is also sad waste of energy and affects human health.

Whenever we see photos of Milky Way in local astronomy forums and social media, it is understood that it must be taken in some other countries. Again, a sad but true fact.

So imagine our huge surprise when singastro newcomer looyaa (George) posted a photo of Milky Way shot in Singapore recently! And many many stars captured around it too! For a few seconds, I even suspected this might be some kind of an elaborate hoax!

Big thanks to George giving me the honour and permission to further post-process his shot. I am not an expert astrophotographer by any stretch of the imagination. So this is my first amateurish attempt.

Click on image to enlarge.
WOW? Yeah. You can say that again.

Milky Way is that long fuzzy "cloud" diagonally across the image. Its thickest part is between Sagittarius (looks like a teapot) and the tail of Scorpius. The glow at the right margin and bottom right hand corner of the image is the result of local light pollution cause by nearby lights from a construction site at Marina Barrage.

George did not see it visually in the sky while he was shooting it with his Pentax K-30 + DA 12-24mm lens. But he saw many stars which indicates a good chance of capturing it on CCD using long-exposure photography. Even more amazing, these shots were captured WITHOUT a tracking device! In most cases, that will lead to stars trailing instead of being pin-pointed.

You can look at the original image by George at his Flickr page. While you are there, check out the rest of his amazing photos - the birds and lightning shots were just wonderfully composed and shot!

You can view different sizes of this photo here at my Flickr page.

This final image is the result George taking multiple single shots at Marina Barrage and then using software to stack it to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. So this is NOT a fake photo - no stars, nebulae were artificially added or removed in the photo. All post-processing does is to reveal more clearly the photons that traveled for hundreds/thousands of light-years and finally hitting the CCD of someone's camera! For those who are still not convinced, you can double check their positions with your favourite planetarium software (e.g. the free Stellarium).

This may not be the first photo of Milky Way captured in Singapore recently but is definitely the best I (and a few other local amateur astronomers) have seen so far. Mr He Chua An also captured an exciting glimpse of its thickest part in this photo in August 2012 at Sembawang.

Light pollution is totally REVERSIBLE! It was still visible here only a few decades ago! So please show this photo to all your friends especially those staying in Singapore.

Do you want to see our galaxy directly with you eyes someday right here in Singapore? And share that amazing moment with your love ones? If you want that badly enough, you can do something about it. Take up the stargazing hobby. Share it with your family, friends and the public. Educate yourself about light pollution. Spread the word.


Update (6 June 2013):

George shot and processed an even better photo of Milky Way captured right here in Singapore on 2nd of June!

Check out the source of this photo for higher resolutions at George's Flickr account.


  1. Interesting !
    But what can be done about light pollution ? I'm interested to know

    1. You can find out more at International Dark-sky Association:

      As individuals, we can lead by example, e.g. using properly shielded lights in our household. Educate ourselves further what is light pollution and its solutions and spread the word to our friends face-to-face or via social media.