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Southern Cross

A remote corner of Aitutaki Lagoon, Cook Islands.

A clear night on Maina Island. Aitutaki Lagoon, Cook Islands.

I had never seen a spiral galaxy with my naked eye. Until this night. Maina island sits far out in the corner of Aitutaki Lagoon, alone in the vast Pacific stillness, as far from artificial lights as you can get today. Polynesian mariners colonized the South Pacific long before there was any electricity, relying on the Southern Cross and other constellations to guide them across tremendous expanses of empty ocean. It's nice to know there are a few places left in the world where that ancient sky still survives, unchanged for millenia.

Those tiny white clouds above the island are the Magellanic Cloud Galaxies. The Large Magellanic Cloud is the one just above the island and the Small Magellanic Cloud is the one higher up. They are the two closest galaxies to our sun and they orbit around our Milky Way. They are only visible in the Southern Hemisphere.

This is a blend of two images taken on a tripod about 15 minutes apart. Photo © copyright by Michael Anderson.

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