Photographer Travels 10,000 Miles to Capture Stunning Photo of the Entire Milky Way Galaxy

Milky Way Galaxy
The entire Milky Way Galaxy as seen from the Maldives.

Backyard astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy has always wanted to get a shot of the entire Milky Way Galaxy, but living in Arizona makes it impossible.

The light pollution coupled with the Arizonian latitudinal position prevents McCarty from getting the shot he wanted. To rectify this, the intrepid photographer caught multiple international flights to arrive on a small island in the Maldives — an archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

From this position near the equator, McCarthy finally got the incredible image he had been looking for — an unobstructed, detailed view of the entire Milky Way Galaxy.

“Unfortunately living in a suburban neighborhood prevents high-quality photos of the Milky Way, which you need dark skies for,” explains McCarthy.

“At my latitude here in the United States, the bulge of Earth’s curvature blocks much of the Milky Way. There is an entire southern portion that can’t be seen. Capturing that was a large part of my goal with this image.”

Milky Way Galaxy
Zoomed in detail of the enormous photo.

To get to his desired location, McCarthy took multiple airplanes, including a seaplane and a small boat, to reach his destination.

“I packed a compact version of my big equipment at home to do this. I wanted to take a photo that was uncompromising on detail, so I brought specially designed astrophotography cameras, lenses, and trackers that would allow me to shoot it in much more detail than otherwise possible,” he explains.

Shooting the Milky Way Galaxy
Capturing the Milky Way from the Maldives.

Once at the location, McCarthy spent two weeks under the stars capturing thousands of photos of the Milky Way.

“The camera lens I used only covered a small part of the Milky Way, so I had to capture the photo in many ‘panels’ to create the final image,” he says.

“This was necessary to produce the detail I wanted and to avoid the distortion that usually comes from using wide-angle lenses.”

Milky Way Galaxy

Milky Way Galaxy

McCarthy was tested during the fortnight with bad weather and clouds hampering his effort. But the photographer says the final image has exceeded all expectations.

“Throughout human history, humans have been able to look up into our home galaxy. From contemplating the stars we developed religion, navigation, and arts,” McCarthy reflects.

“Much of where we are today can be attributed to the minds of ancient thinkers pondering our place under the starry sky.

“While civilization has improved our lives in immeasurable ways, we lost our perspective. Light pollution has taken that perspective from 60% of Europeans and 80% of Americans, depriving us of any insights we could have had from peering into the infinite swirls of starlight.

“My goal is for my images to inspire people the way it inspired our ancestors, so we can recover some of what we’ve lost.”

McCarthy has named his creation Backbone of Night and it is available as a limited print on his website.

More of McCarthy’s work can be found on his Instagram, X, Facebook, and website.

Image credits: All photos by Andrew McCarthy.