This Photographer Shot the Milky Way through a Crystal Orb

Image via astro_jcm/Instagram

Juan Carlos Munoz is a full-time astronomer and hobbyist photographer; while visiting a flea market in Santiago, Chile, he found a glass ball and decided that it’d be a great idea to use it for astrophotography. The result of this quick flea market purchase plus a dash of inspiration is a “cosmic marble” photograph of the Milky Way that was shared initially on Twitter and got thousands of retweets.

The unique photo was made by putting the crystal ball on the handrails of the entrance of Paranal Residencia, with a camera on a tripod positioned underneath, at such angle that the Milky Way is visible (projected backward and upside-down) through the ball. Shooting our galaxy is kinda tricky because that there are so many photos of it already, and it’s really hard to find an original way to photograph it.

Munoz is satisfied with his outcome and now suggests that anybody intrigued by astrophotography to buy a glass ball. He says he has “a couple of weird ideas at the top of his priority list” for some future photographs. The plane of focus when shooting astrophotography is really thin, so as long as the focus distance is correct, everything else in the celestial sphere is nicely blurred into a pretty bokeh.

Even when he’s not using the glass ball, Munoz makes impressive photographs of the starry sky that he shares on his Instagram, and you can see some of them below.

Every time I go to sleep after a long night of observing at Paranal, I always look up to the sky one last time before entering our lodging. You never know what surprises the sky might have in store! In my last shift in February I spotted this lovely sight by chance, with the Milky Way arching symmetrically relative to two of the walls of one of the entrance corridors. The dark patch silhouetted against the bright Milky Way is the Coalsack Nebula, a cloud full of interstellar dust. On top of it is the Southern Cross. The two bright stars to the left are Alpha and Beta Centauri (yellow and blue, respectively). Canon 6D + Rokinon 24mm at f/2, 30 sec, ISO3200, single shot. . . . . . #night_excl #night_shooterz #astrophotography #astronomy #natgeospace #youresa #universetoday #spaceattraction #nightphotography #nightpics #astro_photography_ #astronomia #astrofotografia #igworldclub_astrophotography #ig_astrophotography #universe #skylovers #nightsky #milkyway #milkywaychasers #newmilkyway #nightscape #longexpoelite #longexposure #longexposure_shots #amazing_longexpo #chile #atacama #discoversouthamerica #southamerica

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Is this an alien base in a distant planet? No! It’s the dome of the futuristic hotel at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, partially buried in the ground of the Atacama desert. Don’t worry, the faint light of the dome doesn’t affect the telescopes themselves, located a few kilometers away and much higher up. In fact the dome is usually covered by an internal canvas. That green filamentary veil, known as airglow, is light emitted by oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere. The bright pink cloud is the Carina nebula; the smaller pink blob below it is the Running Chicken Nebula (don’t ask). And below it is the Southern Cross. Canon 6D + Rokinon 24mm, f2, 30 sec, ISO 3200, 3 vertical shots stitched together. . . . . . #night_excl #night_shooterz #stars #astrophotography #astronomy #natgeospace #milkyway #milkywaychasers #youresa #longexpoelite #longexposure #longexposure_shots #universetoday #earthpix #amazing_longexpo #spaceattraction #nightphotography #night_excl #nightpics #astro_photography_ #astronomia #astrofotografia #nightscaper #igworldclub_astrophotography #ig_astrophotography #newmilkyway #chile #atacama #discoversouthamerica #southamerica

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This panorama shows the Milky Way towering over the UT4 telescope at Paranal Observatory. One of of cool things about Paranal is that, given its latitude, the Milky Way center passes right through the zenith. This makes it tricky to photograph sometimes, because it’s so high! . . . . . #night_excl #night_shooterz #stars #astrophotography #astronomy #natgeospace #milkyway #milkywaychasers #youresa #longexpoelite #longexposure #universetoday #earthpix #amazing_longexpo #spaceattraction #nightphotography #night_excl #nightpics #astro_photography_ #astronomia #astrofotografia #nightscaper #igworldclub_astrophotography #ig_astrophotography #samyang #chile #atacama #discoversouthamerica #southamerica #chilegram #paranal

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The center of the Milky Way over the UT1 telescope at Paranal Observatory. I wanted to see if it was possible to capture the reflection of the Milky Way on the metallic dome of the telescope, so I placed myself below and close to the dome. If you squint I think you can see the colours of the Milky Way core reflected on the dome, but I'm not 100% sure. What do you think? . . . . . #chile #atacama #night_excl #night_shooterz #stars #astrophotography #astronomy #landscape #natgeospace #discoversouthamerica #milkyway #milkywaychasers #youresa #southamerica #longexpoelite #longexposure #universetoday #earthpix #amazing_longexpo #spaceattraction #nightphotography #night_excl #nightpics #astro_photography_ #astronomia #astrofotografia #nightscaper #samyang

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“Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station.” Ok, that’s not what we really say when we fire up the four lasers of the UT4 telescope 😀 The lasers excite sodium atoms in a layer 80-90 km above the ground, creating four artificial “stars” that we use to measure and correct the atmospheric turbulence. You can actually see these artificial stars in this image: it’s the tiny detached blob where the beams converge. Can you guess which astronomical target the lasers are pointing to? Let me know in the comments! I took this picture a few days ago at Paranal Observatory, battling 50 km/h winds and sub-zero windchill temperatures. Being outside was extremely uncomfortable, but I think the final image was worth it! This is a stack of 10 untracked images, each one 10 seconds long. Taken with my Canon 6D and a Tamron 45mm at f/1.8, ISO6400. Initial editing in Lightroom, stacking and further editing in Affinity Photo. This is my first shot with the Tamron 45mm, and I’m extremely pleased with this lens! Even at f/1.8 the stars are tack sharp all the way to the corners. This is on its way to becoming my new favourite lens 🙂 . . . . . #night_excl #night_shooterz #fantasticuniverse #astrophotography #astronomy #natgeospace #youresa #universetoday #spaceattraction #nightphotography #nightpics #astro_photography_ #astronomia #astrofotografia #igworldclub_astrophotography #ig_astrophotography #longexposurephotography #liveforthestory #skylovers #nightsky #milkyway #milkywaychasers #newmilkyway #nightscaper #longexpoelite #longexposure #longexposure_shots #amazing_longexpo #madeinaffinity #withmytamron

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A few days ago I went for a stroll to the flea market in Barrio Lastarria, one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Santiago. I stumbled upon this one stand selling all sorts of used artifacts, among which there were a bunch of crystal balls, and I couldn’t help buying one. For just a few bucks, this may very well have become my new favourite “lens”! A few days later I went up to Paranal Observatory for an observing shift, and I decided to test the crystal ball as an astrophotography lens. I placed it on the handrails of one of the entrance corridors to the Paranal residencia, and put my tripod and camera below it, at an angle such that the Milky Way was visible through the ball. Then I chose which lens to attach to the camera. The focal length doesn’t change what you see within the ball, but it does affect the background behind it. So I picked a 24 mm lens to get a large enough view of the Milky Way as a backdrop. Once I nailed the focus on the stars within the ball, I had to decide which aperture to use, and after a few attempts I chose f/4. Smaller f-numbers yielded a too shallow depth of field: the edge of the ball was too blurry, and the bokeh of the background stars was too large, making it hard to discern the Milky Way. Larger f-numbers allowed very little light through, and also made the bokeh in the background smaller than I wanted. I hope you like the final image! If you have the chance to buy one of these cheap crystal balls, I totally recommend it. They’re really fun to use, and they can add a very original spin to your photography. I already have a few crazy ideas in mind for future images. Stay tuned! Canon 6D + Rokinon 24mm f/4, 30 sec, ISO6400 . . . . . #night_excl #night_shooterz #astrophotography #astronomy #natgeospace #youresa #universetoday #spaceattraction #nightphotography #nightpics #astro_photography_ #astronomia #astrofotografia #igworldclub_astrophotography #ig_astrophotography #longexposurephotography #liveforthestory #skylovers #nightsky #milkyway #milkywaychasers #newmilkyway #nightscaper #longexpoelite #longexposure #longexposure_shots #amazing_longexpo #crystalball #crystalballphotography #ig_crystalball

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The UT4 lasers reflected on the dome of the UT1 telescope at Paranal Observatory. The lasers excite sodium atoms located in a layer 80-90 km above the ground, creating four artificial “stars” at that elevation. The inset pic shows these artificial stars as one single yellow blob at the end of the laser beams (the four stars are too far away to be resolved in this image). These artificial stars allow us to measure the atmospheric turbulence in real time. This information is then passed in real time to a deformable mirror that counteracts the atmospheric distortion, delivering tack sharp images. Canon 6D + Rokinon 24 mm at f/2, 20 sec, ISO 3200. . . . . . #night_excl #night_shooterz #astrophotography #astronomy #natgeospace #youresa #universetoday #spaceattraction #nightphotography #nightpics #astro_photography_ #astronomia #astrofotografia #igworldclub_astrophotography #ig_astrophotography #astronomicalobservatories #Astronomus #skylovers #nightsky #milkyway #milkywaychasers #newmilkyway #nightscape #longexpoelite #longexposure #longexposure_shots #amazing_longexpo #chile #atacama #discoversouthamerica

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The Milky Way rising behind the seeing monitor at Paranal Observatory. This monitor measures how the atmospheric turbulence blurs the shape of the stars (the so called “seeing”), and it’s an essential tool in Paranal to schedule observations. Some observations are very demanding and require very stable atmospheric conditions, whereas others can be done with bad seeing. This monitor gives us the seeing every several seconds; that way we can decide on the fly which observations have higher priority, thus making an efficient use of the observing time. Canon 6D + Rokinon 24 mm at f/2, 20 sec, ISO 3200. . . . . . #night_excl #night_shooterz #astrophotography #astronomy #natgeospace #youresa #universetoday #spaceattraction #nightphotography #nightpics #astro_photography_ #astronomia #astrofotografia #igworldclub_astrophotography #ig_astrophotography #astronomicalobservatories #skylovers #nightsky #milkyway #milkywaychasers #newmilkyway #nightscape #longexpoelite #longexposure #longexposure_shots #amazing_longexpo #chile #atacama #discoversouthamerica #southamerica

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