We wondered: could reader-submitted images meet our standards. What were we even thinking? Of course they could. Five of our favorite reader-submitted star trails photos from our Facebook page.
"I'm eager to capture the visual variety of the Northern Lights as the Aurora Borealis activity nears the end of its cycle. Take notice to the right side of the image. The star trails are slightly more yellow in color… that's the Milky Way! This image was inspired by great music as the wind turbines generated energy and Earth turned about its axis trailing the stars under the brilliant Auroras!"
THE TOOLS: Nikon D4, 14mm Prime, f/4, 30 second exposure, 1600 ISO (87 stacked images at two hours).
THE SETTING: Ryegrass WInd Farm, near I-90 and the Columbia River, Washington (The Gorge Amphitheater)
"The best preserved modern ruins are in places that people can't usually access. This is an abandoned airport hidden in the forests of northern Arizona; it was at its peak in the 1930s. During a campout with friends, I focused on this ancient tree and the northeast corner of the sky. We were hoping to catch meteors from the Perseid Meteor Shower. In this five hour exposure, highlights were added with a red light, colored gels, and flash. One Perseid is visible in the extreme right."
THE TOOLS: Canon EOS Rebel T2i, 8mm f/3.5 lens, ISO 1600, f/5.6, 30 seconds, 582 stacked images.
THE SETTING: An abandoned airport in northern Arizona.
"In September 2013, La Cloche Silhouette, a 78 kilometer trek in Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. When you are trekking every ounce counts and my camera kit was 17 pounds alone. We didn't see very much wildlife on this trip, but we had unusually dry weather with clear skies—perfect for photographing the heavens. With only three camera batteries, I saved one especially for shooting star trails on our final evening. I set my exposure, locked the trigger, slipped into my sleeping bag, and this was the result of a battery worth of exposures."
THE TOOLS: Canon 5D Mark II, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, 450 stacked exposures, ISO 2000, f/3.2, 30 seconds.
THE SETTING: Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.
The town of Frisco in Colorado perfectly fits the definition of 'adventure town.' It offers many outdoor activities and It is surrounded by astonishing mountains which often offer a different perspective of the night sky. The town itself produces very little light pollution, which allows its residents and visitors to enjoy a pristine starry sky. This photograph was shot from the top of Mount Royal during a full moon."
THE TOOLS: Nikon D7000, 10-24 f/3.5 lens. 160 stacked exposures, ISO 500, f/3.8, 30 seconds.
THE SETTING: Top of Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.
"Ever since I was a young child, I looked up at the night sky with complete awe. Of course, it wasn't until I grew older that I came to realize how vast our solar system and universe really is. Now, every night I make it a point to go outside and look up into space. It's like a form of time travel. To understand that the light particles that reach our eyes have made an incredible journey through space and time is fascinating. Every single atom in my body was forged inside of a distant star. In fact, every element in the universe is made this way. So it's hard not to feel one with the universe. I started photographing the night sky a few years ago. It is the best way to keep perspective on this seemingly chaotic rock we get to call home."
THE TOOLS: Canon EOS Rebel T3i; Canon Zoom Lens EF-S 18-55mm; ISO 100; Aperture 3.5; Exposure time 1 hour.
THE SETTING: Taken near Sidon, Arkansas. September 2012.