The milky way over Iraq!

Being a pilot means spending many nights awake from your loved ones, overflying remote parts of the world that you do not really want to go to. Young pilots are totally excited when being close to the stars, but with time you are getting used to it. A shooting star might be a noteworthy event and the polar lights always impress, but in everyday life one tends to overlook the beauty of our planet and the starry sky.

I flew from Frankfurt to Sharjah yesterday (has anyone taken a photo of us departing in the evening from runway 18?) and shortly after take-off the sun set. The flight itself was quiet and uneventful except for a bit of turbulence over Romania and the Black Sea. After passing Turkey we entered the airspace over Iraq! We overflew Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region and could make out the lights of Baghdad at the horizon later on. Getting closer to Basrah in the south of the country we could easily see why there is so much money in the region: long lines of oil fields that lit up the sky with their bright yellow fires! One can already see these immense fires from hundreds of miles away…

The air was smooth as silk and I decided to try something new: a night shot with 30 seconds exposure! I had seen a photo on facebook by Christiaan van Heijst that showed the Milky Way and really wanted to do it myself. I failed the week before as we were not aligned with the stars and they always got blurry, but today we were heading in the right direction. The result shows you the Milky Way and many more stars in the sky, as well as the region north of Basrah, Iraq. Look closely and you will see a line of oil rigs right ahead of us. I hope you are enjoying the view into the heart of our galaxy!

Image of the Milky Way and night sky taken from a MD-11 cargo aircraft near Basrah, Iraq.

Here is a bit of information on the capture settings for all of you who are interested in the technical aspects of this photo. The camera used was my trusty Nikon D7000, combined with Nikons AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm lens. Exposure time was 30 seconds with aperture 3,5 and ISO 640. Editing was done using Adobe Lightroom 3 and CS4.

PS: As I have received a number of mails asking if this is a composite – no it is not! It is one single photo… 🙂

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One Response to The milky way over Iraq!

  1. Ahmed May 5, 2018 at 9:28 am #

    nice shot, I am from Basra, Iraq and I work in Majnoon Oil Field north Basra .. it is really nice to see this.

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