An Insane View of the Milky Way From the Edge of New Zealand

New Zealand’s South Island spans 58,000 square miles of breathtaking, verdant terrain. But nothing on the ground surpasses what’s in the sky. The region is home to the largest dark sky observatory in the world, glittering with millions of stars and spectacular views of the Milky Way.

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Photographer Paul Wilson lives on South Island and is an ardent star gazer. He spends countless hours traveling to far-flung corners of the island to point his camera at the heavens. “New Zealand’s great with dark skies,” he says. “If you get out of any city, you can see the Milky Way here.”

Wilson fell in love with the cosmos (and photography) four years ago, when some astrophotography friends encouraged him to give it a try. He now makes multiple long-exposure images, stitching them together to create one enormous photo sometimes more than 500 megapixels. Wilson typically shoots between February and November when the nights are longer, cross-referencing light pollution charts with Google Maps to locate the best stargazing spots. It’s how he found Hickory Bay, about two hours south of Christchurch where he lives. “It’s very remote,” he says. “Once when I was out there, a farmer popped out in his underwear to ask what I was doing.”

He nabbed this particular shot of the bay on a still, clear night in February. It was about 3:30 am, the tide was going out, and the Milky Way was just beginning to rise in the eastern sky. Wilson hooked his Canon 1D X Mark II up to a panoramic mount and tripod on the edge of the wet sand. He made 25 20-second exposures—five down and five across—to capture the entire scene. Later, he digitally stitched the photos together in the program Autopano Giga.

The final 113-megapixel photograph captures the galaxy shimmering above a tumbling shoreline and reflected in the dark water. It’s brighter and more detailed than what you’d see with the naked eye. But for Wilson, the real thing is no less magical. “When you’re under the Milky Way you feel really insignificant,” he says. “I’d hate to live somewhere I couldn’t see it.”

Space Photos of the Week: A Giant Molecular Cloud and All Its Star Bab

There are approximately 100 billion stars in the Milky Way — each one a massive ball of hydrogen and helium burning until it eventually becomes a white dwarf or explodes in a supernova. It’s stunning to behold, but where stars begin are just as beautiful.

This week, NASA captured not one but two celestial nurseries brimming with star formation. The Chandra and Hubble telescopes photographed a glorious giant molecular cloud W51, only 17,000 light years away from Earth. Its dense mix of hydrogen molecules and helium atoms constantly produce stars and planets. In a 20-second exposure, Chandra captured over 600 young stars glittering in the darkness.

Hubble wasn’t finished star-hunting. It snapped an image of NGC 2500, a barred spiral galaxy 30 million light years away in the Lynx constellation. You can see NGC 2500’s classic spindly arms spinning out from the core, glowing with newly born stars.

The rest of the universe offered up some stiff competition for best photo however — NASA’s Juno spacecraft released images from a flyby over Jupiter’s great red spot, allowing for an even closer inspection of the raging red storm and clouds churning on the planet’s surface. And the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a color-enhanced shot of the planet’s fascinating surface.

Want even more dazzling sights from space? Check out the entire collection here.

Exploring the Gaudy Mansions of Kurdistan’s Dream City

Photographer Eugenio Grosso moved from London to Kurdistan four months after the battle of Mosul began. But rather than join his colleagues on the battlefield, he chose to stay behind in the Kurdish capital of Erbil and explore Dream City.

Beyond the heavily armed gates of this affluent community lie hundreds upon hundreds of gaudy, western-style mansions that celebrate the decadence and affluence of Kurdistan’s elites. These enormous villas—each covering at least 3,000 square feet, with at least four bathrooms—are “characterized by attributes not found in homes built outside the city,” the developer boasts.

The self-contained community provides every amenity a wealthy family could want, including schools, high-end shopping, and a pizza joint. It was the promise of a hot slice that drew Grosso to Dream City on the very night he arrived to ferret out stories in the region. Before eating a “really strange-tasting” Iraqi version of a margherita pizza, he strolled through the development, surprised to find such opulent estates. “It impressed me because it was unexpected,” he says. “I didn’t think that in that part of the world there were villas like those.”

So began his fascinating series Erbil White Houses. Grosso visited Dream City 10 times in February, wandering the residential streets for a couple hours before dusk with his Fuji X100t. He found the neighborhood quiet, almost deserted but for security guards, construction workers, and the occasional resident emerging from a home to slip into a car. “People don’t walk there,” Grosso says. “They just get in their car to go get shisha or tea or dinner.”

His images highlight Dream City’s most ostentatious structures. Many are jarring collisions of architectural styles, combining Greek columns and porticos with modern touchs like gleaming panels of glass. A home owned by Kurdish businessman Shihab Shihab replicates the exterior of the White House. Grosso wandered by a house still under construction, and the workers invited him in to have a look. “I told them that the house they were working on was beautiful and they replied that it could be President Trump’s house,” Grosso says. “Or, at least that’s what I understood from our little chat as they were repeating ‘Trump, Trump’ while pointing out at the house.”

Some mansions remain unfinished, their progress stalled by the ongoing war. “They started building these when the economy was booming, but when ISIS came it slowed down and they couldn’t manage to sell them,” Grosso says.

Speaking of the war, Grosso eventually made it to the front lines, but found he much preferred exploring Erbil and how people live during warfare. “I thought it was good to show a different aspect of the Middle East, one I didn’t expect to find,” he says. Erbil White Houses captures the universal desire and pursuit of ‘the good life,’ even as a war rages just 50 miles away.

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Eerie Photos Capture Fear and Paranoia in Washington DC

Something strange is afoot in Washington. Nondescript white vans loiter in peaceful neighborhoods. Office workers hustle bins of papers as a mobile shredder. Burly men with earpieces and no-nonsense demeanors come and get in black SUVs with black windows. Mike Osborne suspects a conspiracy, and he’s determined to make the journey to the base of it.

Osborne uses mundane scenes to produce a plausible realm of conspiracies and malfeasance in their ongoing series White Vans, Black Suburbans. With only some cynicism plus preference for black and white, perhaps the many ordinary of things—a morning paper, a protester keeping a sign, a social gathering seen via a smudged window—become strangely ominous. “You understand how in every cop thriller or spy movie, they’ve this board in which they’ve all of the pictures tacked on with yarn linking them? That’s one of the ways I’m thinking about this project,” Osborne says. “The images are a definite possible dossier. You Place all these things together as well as suggest some larger meaning.”

Maybe not that Osborne purchases into conspiracy theories. But he’s fascinated with those that do. It began a decade ago as he was a grad student within University of Texas. He invested time photographing Alex Jones (yes, that Alex Jones) in Austin. The fascination deepened when Osborne relocated to Washington, DC, in 2012. He lived just obstructs away from politicians like John Kerry and Madeleine Albright and saw even their gardeners suffering a talk to a steel detector. Everything in regards to the town exuded an expression that there is nothing because it seems. And arrived the 2016 election, using its strange claims of a kid sex band and nature cooking therefore a number of other conspiracy theories. “I thought about exactly what would interest me personally if I possessed a conspiratorial mind-set,” he says. “How would I start aesthetically decoding the things I had been seeing on a regular basis?”

He began documenting whatever somebody might deem dubious. A cryptic sign advertising “DoD cyber training.” A hooded figure stealing straight down a sidewalk. An F-16 crash site inside forests of Maryland. He attended political rallies and shot buildings like NSA and FBI headquarters. The images resemble surveillance footage, creating the feeling that you’re taking a look at one thing some one doesn’t wish one to see. You think they’re mundane scenes. But have you been yes? “i believe my interest plays off that dichotomy to be near a locus of power yet not being next to a knowledge of just how energy has been exercised,” he says.

White Vans, Ebony Suburbans feeds off that tension. it is additionally prompt, provided what’s happening in Washington. It’s not only the conspiracy theorists. Everyone’s a little paranoid nowadays.

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