How you can see the Milky Way from Jamaica
Unknown to most Jamaicans, we can see the Milky Way from Jamaica. Why haven't I been able to see it you ask? There are many reasons for this which we'll get into shortly.
In my teens I've always had a deep fascination with the stars and space. I remember spending hours looking on pictures of galaxies and nebulae in complete awe. My fascination reached the point that I dreamed of becoming an astrophysicist or an astronomer which unfortunately was not mean to be. Through high school and college I continued my occasional reading on related subjects including black holes, quasars, nebula, etc (Yes, I'm a nerd). As I got older and busier with life this interest took a back seat for several years.
A Beautiful Accident
In the Summer of 2013 I went to Whitfield Hall Hostel where we were to overnight before my first hike up to the Blue Mountain peak. Before heading to bed to rest for the hike, I roamed the area to take pictures of the cabin and the property. It wasn't until months later that I realized that I had accidentally captured the Milky Way in one of the images. My mind was blown and my eyes were open. Prior to that moment I did not realize that it was possible to see the Milky Way in the night sky. From this point onward my interest in stars and space was re-ignited and the hunt for the Milky Way began.
The Hunt Begins
Armed with my new found but meager knowledge of the Milky Way, my search began at Holywell in April of 2014. This attempt unfortunately came up empty handed which, taught me my first lesson, that is, the Milky Way is not always present in the night sky. This trip fortunately was not a waste as I captured my first two favourite nightscape images which can be seen below:
The Search Continued
Determined to find the Milky Way, my research began to find out why I wasn't able to see or capture it. My search directed me to the following fundamental lessons :
With this new found information, my search took a turn for the better. In the summer of 2014, on my way to Treasure Beach from Black River, I drove through an area which was void of street lights and was more or less pitch black. Added to the fact that the moon had already set, I had the WILD idea to stop at a near by shop in an attempt to capture the Milky way. A few shots later, I was able to capture my first deliberate shots of the Milky Way, the best of which can be seen below.
On my way back from Ocho Rios on the North South High in September of that same year, I noticed that the conditions were similar to that of Treasure Beach and I had the same wild idea yet again. We quickly stopped the car on the high way which resulted in the following images:
From that point onward, my confidence grew and in four different road trips around Jamaica in 2015, I was successful in capturing it at multiple locations . These locations including: Holywell, Pelican Bar on the coast of St. Elizabeth, Jakes in Treasure Beach, Grand Palladium in Lucea and Goblin Hill in Portland. The following images are some of my favourite shots from these trips.
Major Point of Note: Light Pollution
As I mentioned earlier on, light pollution robs us of our ability to see the Milky Way clearly. To truly put things in to perspective, the below image shows the Milky Way over the light pollution of Kingston which I believe speaks volumes.
Light pollution is a world wide problem that affects us and future generations. If you are interested in finding out more about light pollution and what you can do to help, check out these articles: Reduce Light Pollution, How to Take Action to Prevent Light Pollution and 5 ways you can reduce light pollution.
We can indeed see the Milky Way from Jamaica once conditions are right and the location is free of light pollution. The best time to search for it if you have never seen it before, is in August during a New Moon with the aid of one of the mobile applications which I've previously listed. For those who are in doubt that these pictures may be real, here is my a first ever Milky Way timelapse captured in Jamaica.
I went up to Blue Mountain wilderness retreat, Portland last October. It was Heroes day holiday. From Road off from Buff Bay, and Tranquility and went up to Bangor Ridge. If you have not been there yet, please try one day. The camp site has no light pollution and I could see bright Milky Way up in the sky 180degree. I will go up next month, hoping to see Milky Way again.
Great work Sean!,
Wow, your photographs are just as breathtaking as seeing the actual Milky Way. While I am from Jamaica, I was never fortunate to catch a sight of the sky as I lived in the city. Just 3 years ago I moved to Canada and met a friend who has been inviting me to her cottage where she love to go star-gazing and just this year I was fortunate to lay on the dock by the lake and stare at the Milky Way, The Big Dipper and the Andromeda Galaxy. On my next trip back home I will definitely go on a hunt to find the Milky Way. Thanks for sharing your story, pictures and tips!
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